Thoughts on Vegas and Why We Need To Do Better

I read an article a few days ago that helped solidify the jumbled thoughts I’d been having about what happened in Las Vegas.

That article (which you can read here) sparked this post, which may not be as educational or productive as I would like, but is not entirely atypical for content posted on this blog, so here goes.

Here is a rundown of the thoughts I had immediately after the shootings:

  • people are not treating the shooter like a human being
  • expressions of sadness and compassion on social media seem fake and forced (not all, but some)
  • too much focus on the guns themselves

In the days that followed, I heard detachment and demonizing of the gunman, which is easy to do in a situation such as this. Most of the reactions that I saw were the easy way out, mine included. I couldn’t figure out what bothered me about the way it was handled, and instead of taking the time to do so, pushed it out of my mind and went about my days.

I feel as though this is an all too common reaction — initial shock and awe, then upset, then helplessness, and finally acquiescence of the entire situation. “It sucks but what can I do?”

After some time to think about it, here is what bothered me about the situation.

Whenever tragedies like these strike, seemingly more and more often, I can’t help but think about the perpetrators. What caused them to react in this way? How sad/angry/unbalanced were they that they felt as though this was the only option?

I’m sure I’m not the only one to think this way, but it’s a point of view that may be unpopular with a large amount of the population. Most reactions involve a stripping of that person’s humanity in order to villainize that person. I get it; people are upset and angry and to take away a person’s humanity allows them to take out those feelings without asking any other questions.

Focusing on the people killed or what was used to kill those people is far easier than figuring out answers to the questions that I posed, especially if the person is dead and unable to communicate. It’s easier to focus on how easy it is to acquire guns than it is to take a deeper look at the systemic mental health problem that this country faces.

Access to mental health care is limited at best — especially to psychiatric care where medication plays a large role. Some of the most common barriers to entry involve financial and even emotional costs of stigmas that are slightly improved but still ever-present in today’s society.

I don’t condone what was done and I still think that gun control is an issue we should tackle, but I also don’t think that doing so will stop these types of things from happening. If the core of the problem isn’t fixed, people will still find a way to kill each other, whether it’s with guns or another type of weapon. I think we need to find a way for it to be ok for people to ask for help and be able to get it.

I don’t know how we do that, and I think that’s a problem. I want to be able to fix it, but it has to start young and it has to start with changing a lot of minds that might not be ready to be changed. I think the most immediate changes happen with ourselves and the people around us:

  • Take care of yourself — slow down and learn to practice self-care
  • Check in with yourself — how are you feeling? Do you need to talk with someone? Are you having problems you can’t solve by yourself?
  • Talk to each other — really talk. Call someone on the phone, go out for lunch or coffee, and talk. Connect with others.
  • Do something nice for someone else — help a neighbor, help a stranger, just try and be nice to everyone you meet. You have no idea what they are going through.

It’s hard guys, but it starts with you. With me. With all of us. Our first reaction shouldn’t be “why did he have all those guns,” but “what is wrong with our world that left this problem untreated and unnoticed?”

Take care of yourselves and take care of those that you care about. Don’t be afraid to get help and reach out to someone you suspect might need it. Do something today that will help pave the way for a better tomorrow.

If you’re interested in donating to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, you can do so here.

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12 Comments

  1. Tammi
    October 9, 2017 / 7:31 am

    What bothers me about this post and many others is the default to mental illness. I’ve worked in mental health for 26 years now, so it’s not like I don’t understand mental illness. When I heard this had happened my first thought was please don’t let this be someone of color, please don’t let this be someone of color. Because if was it would be very different conversation. The moment I found out he was a white male, I knew it was only a matter of time before the mental illness card would be pulled. And sure enough it was, as is the pattern. If this was anyone other than that, there would be a very, very different conversation taking place. And trust mental illness would not be part of it. As no one else is given the luxury of being able to have or use mental illness to explain their behavior.

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 9, 2017 / 7:42 am

      I agree. If he has been another race there would have been yet another layer to get through before that would have been considered by many people. For me, that’s always where I go to though. There’s obviously a problem with our system if these types of actions continue to occur with increasing numbers. The D.C. snipers, for instance, were AA and their mental health is definitely an important consideration in their actions.

  2. October 9, 2017 / 1:16 pm

    Great thought provoking post. How brave of you to broach this subject as it is controversial in sooo many ways.
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  3. October 9, 2017 / 3:32 pm

    I agree that mental illness needs to be taken more seriously in this country, but I can’t help but wonder how many lives would be saved if people didn’t have weapons of this caliber to begin with, you know? It’s terrible from any angle you approach it.
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  4. October 9, 2017 / 7:45 pm

    Guns are exactly what should be focused on! This country has a very high rate of shootings. There hasnt’ been any change in stricter gun laws like banning assault weapons, restricting the amount of guns one can purchase, or background checks. The NRA is all too powerful which is sshameful. There are hundreds of congress/senator members that have taken large amounts of money from the NRA. Although more than 90% of citizens in this country want stronger gun laws, we aren’t listened to. Greed and power wins out. When Australia had ONE school shooting, both parties got together in a bi-partisan way and immediately agreed to strict gun laws. This was several years ago and there hasn’t been ANY shootings since. I’d suggest calling your representatives, sign petitions if you desire a change to these senseless tragedies. Enough is enough

  5. October 9, 2017 / 7:53 pm

    I read that article yesterday and found it raise some good points.

    I’ve gone through the shock, I’ve gone through the anger, and now I’m stuck in the “why?” and “what made this person different since he, by all other accounts was “normal,” yet did something so horrendous and unthinkable?” Obviously I have no answer either, but I agree that there is something we as a society are doing/not doing that allows this type of isolation and hatred to fester.

    Anyway, glad to see you tackle the topic. So many business bloggers don’t touch on controversy, and I think it’s a shame not to use our platforms as a way to further the conversation.
    Catherine @ A Cup of Catherine recently posted…5 Things You Can Do On National Depression Screening DayMy Profile

  6. October 9, 2017 / 7:57 pm

    Guns are exactly what needs to be focused on! This shooter had over 10 assault weapons and an enormous amount of ammunition. Shootings have become common place in the US, and it’s shameful. Although more than 90% of American believe in stricter gun laws nothing’s happened to change this. The NRA is all too powerful. Hundreds of senators/congress members have received large contributions from the NRA. We, the people, are not being heard due to greed and power. And, we have an impostor in the White House who’s in the NRA’s back pocket. The US carries 48% of the guns. Call your representatives for stricter gun laws like banning assault weapons, limiting how many guns one can acquire, and strict background checks. Australia had ONE school shooting and BOTH parties got together (they don’t have an NRA running them) and created strict gun laws. They haven’t had ANY shooting tragedies since and it’s been a decade. Stand up, and speak out for the right thing.
    Valerie Anne Burns recently posted…Tricky Despair and a Full Moon Over the OceanMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 9, 2017 / 9:06 pm

      Agreed that’s an issue that does need attention as well, it’s just not the only issue at play

  7. October 10, 2017 / 4:27 pm

    I find your point of view very interesting indeed. I have been living in the US for one year only and among the things that chocked me the most at first was how poor the health/mental system is in this country. Not that I am an expert or used statistics and number to illustrate/confirm my point here, but clearly I have never seen so many homeless people with mental diseases. These people should and would actually be taken care by the medical system (as it is in Europe most of the time) instead of being left aside by the society. Take a veteran for instance: he’s celebrated in every single baseball game but for those who end up in the streets suffering for trauma post-war that none took care of, they simply are forgotten by the society. It is a sad reality and if you are new in this country, that is something that you actually notice. Of course we can blame guns (and we should) but health is important from the beginning as you mention, and that is something that people tend to forget. Anyway, I talk too much but your article made me react. Thank you for another great post of yours, it’s always a pleasure to read you!

  8. October 16, 2017 / 2:16 pm

    I absolutely, whole-heartedly agree that mental health (and access to care) needs to become a focus in this country. However, for now it is also easier to make sure that guns are not so freely available. While simply restricting guns will not prevent any kind of attacks, it will make it much harder to kill a whole bunch of people (anonymously – as in this case from hundreds of yards away).

    Still, the mental health issue needs to be addressed and recognized as its own issue.
    Sadly, whenever mental health is brought up in the case of a mass shooting, it’s so easy to blame mental illness (and that’s what many people and the media) jump on… strangely though, lots of people who commit mass murders don’t have any record of mental health issues or a diagnosis, so I think general “mental health” and (diagnosable)”mental illness” need to be addressed as two separate things.
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