Columnist reflects on what the source of such violence could have been that led to the Newtown shooting
By Mattie Stevens, “13
On Dec. 16, 2012, 20 children and six adults were killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CO. The shooter, Adam Lanza, had stolen his mother’s gun to kill her and then continued to the school she worked at, where children and adults were shot. When the news broke, people were shocked and disturbed at someone shooting 26 innocent people, most of them first graders. It caused many to pause and try to wrap their minds around how such a tragedy could happen, and why these shootings are becoming more frequent.
According to reason.com, a website devoted to what’s trending in multiple aspects of the media, out of the 62 mass shootings that have occured in the U.S. over 30 years, 24 have been in the last seven years alone.
Many have chosen to attack gun abuse, videogames, movie violence, and a lack of mental health care as factors that attribute to such violence.
While these factors are contributers, there is one societal problem that pushes people over the edge to violence: the stigma of mental illness. Stigma is defined as an identifying mark or characteristic, and usually has a negative context. Psychologists, like Jefferey A. Lieberman, conclude that people tend to associate negative traits — crazy, violent, or uncontrollable — with the mentally ill. The reality is that the majority of people diagnosed with a mental illness do not have or act on these emotions, but it is the minority who do and are then broadcast in the media.
Dr. David Rosenhan performed a social psychology experiment in which people were admitted to mental hospitals under false pretenses. Rosenhan found that patients are not treated as equals and that it is difficult to distinguish between sane and insane in environments like mental hospitals.
This study shows that even trained professionals have a stigmatized idea of what mentally ill people should act like.The patients were not treated as equals, and even though they were acting normally, it took doctors almost three weeks to release them.
Rosenhan’s study also demonstrates that mental illness is a difficult area to assess because understanding the thought process of those diagnosed with such illnesses is difficult. Each case is individual to the person and is influenced by a combination of their genes and social factors.
It is for these reasons that we can never truly know the causes behind these tragedies. However, they cause society to reflect on what we do well and on what we could improve.
While I do not hope for these events to occur again, I hope that our country can consider improvements that would prevent these kinds of shootings. Perhaps mental health care will become more available, gun safety will be taken more seriously, and people will realize the importance of admitting they need help and not be embarressed about their condition.
Events like the shooting at Sandy Hook are terrifying and saddening, but hopefully our country will re-evaluate its morals and something positive can be developed from such tragedy. Whether it be improving mental health care, stationing armed guards around schools, enacting gun restrictions or changing one’s view of the mentally ill, I have faith that major societal improvements will be a result of this unfortunate situation.