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The Heart (or Brain) of the Matter

When I originally took this piece, I was going to talk about gun control and all the hubris
surrounding the Las Vegas shooter. Proximity and time away from the tragic events have forced
me to change my approach.
In this country, we have a crisis of mental health. As of 2015, there were 43.1 million adults
that reported in a study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health suffer from some
form of mental illness. That is 17.9 percent of the total adult population in the country.
One-fifth of the adult population of the United States presents with some form of mental illness
and yet we don’t acknowledge it as a legitimate problem. We talk about cancer, global warming,
war, famine and continue to work toward cures and solutions for these.
Mental health is talked about in hushed tones in quiet rooms and when innocent lives are
taken, we blame the gun. We blame the NRA, the politicians. We blame everything but
ourselves.
After these events, I see the line “thoughts and prayers” in some variation. Unfortunately,
thoughts and prayers don’t move bills through Congress. There is an online tracker of bills in the
chambers of Congress.
I searched using the term “mental health” and there are 130 bills that were introduced. Two
have been massed as of October 16, 2017. There was a bill to improve the National Suicide
Hotline introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah in May of this year. The reported progress as
of this article is 18 percent.
Although Congress and its workings seem distant to us, we have more power than we believe.
If we as citizens band together on this issue of helping with mental health, calling our senators
and articulating our problems and ideas, there’s no reason change can not occur.
We may never agree on what to do about guns but we can all spare compassion to help our
fellow man.
As college students and as citizens of this country, we aren’t supposed to change the world, but
to help improve our little corner of society.
What happened in Las Vegas was devastating and illustrated the lowest of the lowest of our
society. Those 58 lives should not die in vain, because of a false sense of pride, that mental
health doesn’t affect us. Stephen Paddock should not be the next in a line of mass shooters that
are infamous for heinous actions.
We have an opportunity to do better and be better as a country, and addressing our mental
health issues collectively in an open, honest conversation is a big step.
Frankly, we live in a time that our president will not set that example, but in some way, that
almost is a blessing. It forces us to turn to our fellow man and do likewise, to extend the
proverbial olive branch.