We talk a lot about breaking records. We try to break records for fundraising or athletics. Last week, however, we broke a record that should never have been broken: deadliest high school shooting in American history.
I’ve recently come across the phrase, “This is a mental health problem,” far too often. More often than not, this phrase comes from politicians who aggressively support the Second Amendment. I agree mental health is likely a significant part of this problem. Mental health has freshly become the scapegoat for acts of violence. But there is little evidence those making decisions about access to help seem to think it is worth the attention.
At UF, we are incredibly fortunate to have the Counseling & Wellness Center, located at 3190 Radio Road, available to us, free of charge. However, the demand is far higher than the supply at the CWC. Students may have to wait months to see a mental health professional. Some students choose to seek treatment off-campus but as soon as we cross the campus boundary, we begin to encounter a massive issue.
Mental health care is expensive. It’s often expensive even if you have health insurance and, thanks to the lack of a suitable replacement for the Affordable Care Act, a lot of people do not have it. Even if you have insurance, you may have a managed care plan or a health maintenance organization. You may not have a choice in who your health professional is. Not all doctors are a good fit for all patients. But if the psychiatric professional you really should be seeing is out of your network, too bad.
I have a couple questions for our political representatives. At what point will people’s lives be worth more than support for the Second Amendment? If it’s not a gun problem but a mental health problem, will you fix the system that offers mental health services? How will you get people the mental health care they need? As one of the student survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School said: You are the adults. These are just kids. You’re supposed to protect them. What are you doing?
Children should not have to know what to do in an active shooter situation. Children should not have to run for their lives in a place that is supposed to be about learning, growth and self-discovery.
While the mental health of the shooter is a point of contention, we should also focus on the mental health of the students at Stoneman Douglas. Countless videos have been posted online detailing various aspects of the shooting, from text conversations between students and their parents to survivors being interviewed by the media. The real lives that were impacted by this are everywhere.
The shooter needed help — there is really no disputing that. But what about the survivors? What about the friends and families of the victims? They have lived through, presumably, the worst day of their lives. They will never be the same again, even though our representatives seem to be waiting for this to blow over and for things to get back to normal. Their lives will never go back to normal and certainly not if they are given a quick “sorry for your loss,” and then are shoved aside for more important things.
Continuing to support relaxed gun regulations and pushing aside legislation to improve accessibility to mental health services emphasizes that those in power care more about who is lining their pockets than about those who are suffering.
My heart goes out to the victims, their families and friends and everyone who calls Parkland their home. I am so sorry this is the world we live in. Keep your people close. While we do have senseless acts of violence and a lack of responsive action, we have love. We have friendship and unity and humanity. Don’t let go of that, dear readers.
Taylor Cavaliere is a UF journalism and psychology junior. Her column focuses on mental health.