Whenever there’s a big enough crisis, there is a good amount of collateral to follow. The media explodes, and conspiracy theorists fly into the picture from every direction. Was Lee Harvey Oswald the only gunman involved in former President John F. Kennedy's assassination? Was 9/11 an inside job?
However, these theorists don’t stop at just the crisis itself. Another common aspect following tragedies is the concept of “crisis actors.” Some people believe those who show up in the news after a crisis are paid actors who were not actually involved in the tragedy. Examples of these theories have surfaced after dozens of horrible events, from the Pulse nightclub shooting to the Boston Marathon bombing. Most recently, of course, theorists are talking about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
These allegations are disgusting and disrespectful.
When a tragedy occurs, there are always people who survive it and continue to be affected by it. Many battle the demons of grief, survivor’s guilt or post-traumatic stress disorder. They struggle every day but are often forgotten about in the aftermath.
As a society, we often neglect to remember direct victims are not the only ones who are hurting. There are plenty of people struggling with their mental stability, and they need to be focused on. Pain and suffering are not always visible, and just because you can’t see the wound or have undeniable evidence someone was at a horrific event doesn’t mean they weren’t.
The idea of crisis actors disrespects survivors who are living with heartache.
Theorists have speculated that after tragedy, people who appear on TV after the incidents look very similar to those who have appeared after other tragedies. Some people think those who rise up out of the wreckage were never actually in the wreckage at all.
In their minds, these survivors are lying. They’re just showing up for fame and drama, speaking out about events to push an agenda or to get air time on national television. There is a rumor floating around that some of the students who say they survived the Stoneman Douglas shooting aren’t actually students, but actors being paid to appear on TV and pretend they were.
While I appreciate that people question the information they are given and don’t just believe anything they see on TV, I think it is senseless that rather than being sympathetic to the survivors of the shooting, people are sitting comfortably behind computer screens, starting rumors about children who lived through hell and are trying to tell their stories.
Mental health following a tragedy is important. Not only do we need to ensure those we lost are properly remembered, but we must also take care of and protect the survivors. They will never be the same again, no matter how put together they seem to be on the outside. Their mental health is in a delicate state, and for many of these kids, throwing their hearts and souls into the #NeverAgain and #MarchForOurLives movements is how they are choosing to cope. It may seem unorthodox to you, but this is their choice.
Quite frankly, it’s not about the third-party observers right now. So, for the sake of the mental well-being of these kids and their families, stop the conspiracy theories. They are survivors and they are trying to make their way through the rest of their lives just like the rest of us.
Rather than questioning the reality of their pain, show them the support they deserve. Let’s be proud of them for sharing their pain.
Taylor Cavaliere is a UF journalism and psychology junior. Her column focuses on mental health.