As we start to re-open the Country issues we have not been paying attention to are reemerging. Those issues are mass shootings and hate crimes directed at people of certain races. This past week 6 South Korean women were killed in Atlanta by a mass shooter. Additionally people died in the hospital. The statistics we have from the Gun Violence Archive for 2019 through November of 2019 indicate there were 336 mass shootings that year.
The official statistics for 2019 indicate1347 people were killed in mass shooting and 1,684 people injured in 2019. Additionally, these statistics don’t account for how many families have been changed forever and how many first responders are dealing with traumatic reactions.
At the beginning of 2020, we started to focus on the Pandemic and were not focusing on mass shootings. We have over 500,000 Americans who have died due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, in addition to people grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions due to mass shootings, we have added over 500,000 American families who are grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions due to the Coronavirus. In addition to family members, again we have first responders who have been emotionally impacted by the Coronavirus virus.
Finally, the other issue we have had going on, but not paying attention to are hate crimes directed at Asian Americans. Donald Trump blamed China for the flu and assigned a racial slur to it. As a result, many Asian Americans have been yelled at, spit on and killed. There are numerous older Asian Americans who have been attacked walking on the streets and have died from their injuries. Again, we are adding to the Americans grieving. We have Americans involved with mass shootings, the Coronavirus and Asian Americans all grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions. We have a tremendous amount of people grieving and coping with trauma in the United States, but what are we doing about it?
In 2019, former President Trump said he would address the mass shootings in the United States. He said we would definitely be taking action and there would be universal background checks. He then made a public statement from the Oval Office that there would be no universal background checks. The President stated the background checks we currently have are enough to keep us safe. He also publicly stated that the people who helped him win the election would not be happy with universal background checks. He had been speaking to the chairman of the NRA that day. Therefore it appears, the money the NRA donated to his campaign was more important than the children of the United States.
The former President initially said he would support sane gun laws and the he decided that the issue was simply a mental health issue. By doing so he did not help the issue and he reinforced the negative stigma about mental health in our country. When he referred to a mental health issue, he called the people “sick” and stated they need to be locked up. The research clears shows that people with mental health issues pose a danger to themselves by cutting or committing suicide. The research clearly shows that people with mental health issues are rarely dangerous to society. The Director of the American Psychiatric Association issued a statement stating the same information (2019).
Mental health issues are not the primary reason for mass shootings, hate is the primary issue. In fact the FBI was able to arrest three men planing mass shootings. One of the men arrested issued a statement that he was planing the shooting because he hated anyone who was not white. He was also at the Charlottesville protest and stated to a reported he believed in only a nation for white people and was advocating killing anyone who was Jewish. This man is not being labeled as mental ill. He is being charged with charges related to a Hate crime. Again in order to be charged with a Hate crime you must be attacking someone because you hate them due to their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation etc. The Klu Klux Klan has held rallies and have been accused of killing people for years, but no one in the group is labeled mentally ill. The KKK is labeled as a hate group.
As children start to resume going back to their schools and they come into my office saying they are afraid of returning to school due the mass shooter drills and the possibility of a mass shooting, what do I say to them? How can I say we are doing everything we can to protect them, when our government is not doing anything. We have not passed any sane gun laws. How can I say don’t worry when every day in 2019 there was a mass shooting and more students were killed at a school? Children today also hear the news easily and they will know that I am lying. Remember, most teenagers and middle school students have access to the news very easily because the news updates pop up on their phones. In order for therapy to work, the children and teenagers need to trust me. If I lie, they will not trust me. Again, with the issues I cited for this year alone, how can I tell a child there is nothing to worry about.
The other issue is how do parents get children and teenagers to come to a psychotherapist’s office. Former President Trump has been on national television stating all mass shooting is due to mental illness. He refers to the people as “sick puppies” and that they need to be “locked up in asylums.” Teenagers and children will be worried that their parents are taking them to my office to be locked up. Many teenagers need psychotherapy for mental health issues such as depression. According to the CDC, one out of five children need psychotherapy. Anxiety disorders and depression have increased significantly during the Pandemic. Cutting is also at epidemic rates in teenagers and children. I have children as young as 10 who self- mutilate. Also suicide was the third leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. In the last few months, the CDC changed suicide from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death. There are many children who need psychotherapy, but will be afraid of being locked up or called a “sick puppy” by their friends and they will fight their parents about going to therapy.
Also what about the people who experienced a mass shooting or lost a loved one to the Coronavirus, their family and friends and the first responders, their lives have been changed for ever. They are going to need years of psychotherapy to cope with their PTSD. However, besides being labeled as a victim, they are not going to want to be looked at as a “sick puppy” because they need therapy. This is what they will think and feel because of how the former President and republican senators have responded to mass shootings and such things as masks. We already have survivors of mass shootings and the Coronavirus committing suicide because they cannot stand the pain associated with their grief. We have seen the same thing from veterans committing suicide because they did not have access or were embarrassed to seek psychotherapy. When will we learn? When will we stop demonizing mental health?
Since the former President refused to act, we need to learn from the high school students from Parkland, Florida shooting and take action ourselves. Remember by acting you may be saving the life of your child or a loved one. Call the Senators for your state and demand sane gun laws and if they are too afraid of the NRA, you will vote against them in the next election. Next, demand they make decisions about the Coronavirus based on the medical experts. Several states reopened for Spring Break even though public health experts said it was too soon. The result, Florida again is seeing a significant increase in the number of Coronavirus cases. Finally, demand that Congress take steps to protect Asian Americans.
There have already been 3,800 Asian Americans attacked this year and most victims were women (NBC news). These number is probably lower than reality because most Asian Americans tend not to report these attacks to the police because they fear for their safety. A majority of the victims are older and many of them were killed. Why have Asian Americans been attacked so often this year? The former President Trump has blamed China for the Coronavirus. Many of his followers have misinterpreted Trump’s racist remarks as a reason to blame Asian Americans for the Coronavirus Pandemic. This is absurd because there are strains that came from Europe in addition to China. The Asian Americans did not create or cause the Coronavirus and they are Americans just like the rest of us are Americans. Therefore, they are entitled to the same rights and protection. However, most Asian Americans are now worried about their grandparents leaving their houses. Again we have more Americans grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions. When are we going to learn that we are all in this together and need to work together to solve these issues?
No American should be afraid to go outside because they may be shot, catch a deadly virus or attacked because of their ethnicity. We have a number of Americans who are suffering emotionally and need professional mental health care. We need to focus on providing mental health care to those who are in need of it and also how we are going to work together to solve our issues in the United States.
Some people will say I have no right to be writing this article. However, I see and hear the kids crying daily because they are afraid of being killed or their parents being killed. I also am trained in Critical Indent Debriefing, certified as a first responder therapist and specialize in treating trauma victims. I am tired of hearing how the first responders lives are being changed and the night terrors they experience. I am not afraid of the NRA stopping sane gun laws. We have a huge problem with hate and race in our Nation that must be addressed. Also we also do not have adequate mental health services in our Nation. This is why the suicide rate went from the 3rd leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for kids. Mental health issues are not causing the mass shootings! If it was we would have had the problem in the 1970s and 1980s, but we didn’t.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over twenty years experience treating children and teenagers. He is also trained to treat victims of trauma, he is certified as a first responder therapist and to do Critical Incident Debriefing. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.