On Friday, there was a bomb threat at my old high school. The school went into lockdown, and people were scared out of their minds. It turned out the bomb was not real. However, as we have seen over the last few years, these stories of terror in everyday places like schools, churches and concert venues do not always have a happy ending. Innocent people have their lives snatched away from them for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When I was in eighth grade, a boy brought homemade Molotov cocktails to school with the intent of blowing up the school. Thankfully, he concocted the cocktails incorrectly, and they did not work.
Not all was well, however. When confronted by one of the school police officers, he stabbed the officer. No students were harmed, and the officer made a full recovery. But if his intentions were fulfilled, many students would have been harmed, or worse, lost their lives.
It’s important to note, I grew up in a very normal town. Bad things didn’t really happen there. We heard about way worse stuff on the news, and we all just kind of blew off the things that happened to us, knowing it could be so much worse.
This, dear reader, is unfortunately the world we live in.
Schools go into lockdown all the time. When I was young, I always thought it was for the “bad guys” who would break in with their guns and try to hurt us. I never imagined it would happen so often, and I definitely never imagined it would be kids my own age and even younger.
It happens so often we stop even giving it very much attention. I mean, there’s a story every day about something terrible happening somewhere. It could be worse.
Yes, it certainly could. But are we going to wait until it is to start doing something about it? How many more people have to have their lives taken or put in danger before we address this? And I don’t mean “Pray for wherever” Facebook posts and news stories. I mean legislation. I mean real action.
I use my platform to talk about mental health quite often. One day, I hope I’ll never have to talk about it again. That will mean it has the attention it deserves, and everyone agrees upon its level of importance.
I will not assert every instance of terror or harm to others is a direct result of a lack of attention to mental health, but it is certainly a starting point. Why do we wait until people do or try to do terrible things before we consider they may be struggling with their mental health? Why do we wait until a middle-school student is in handcuffs in a courtroom before we decide it’s time to get them the help they need? When we are about the age of some of these kids, we learn about logical reasoning.
Logically, to prevent something bad from happening, you have to address it before the bad thing happens. If we keep waiting and simply hope it will be different in the future, nothing will change. If anything, it will get worse.
I can’t help but think it can be attributed to people wanting to assume the best of people. Maybe it’s just a phase. Maybe they’re going through a rough patch. Maybe they just need to be alone to work through some stuff. I’ll leave them be. These are dangerous assumptions. I recognize not wanting to insert yourself into a situation with mental trouble because it can be scary. But if you see signs, don’t wait for something horrible to happen. Be their advocate. They need you. They need all of us.
Taylor Cavaliere is a UF journalism and psychology junior. Her column appears on Mondays.