What a difficult Monday it has been for our nation, especially for those most closely touched by the Vegas shootings. With a death toll of 59 and injured persons numbering 500 and counting, what are the chances that any of us are completely unscathed? If we are all connected by six degrees of separation, and by experience, fewer than six, it’s probably just a matter of time before we realized the true psychic impact of this tragedy.
My brother was in Vegas yesterday. Fortunately, before our level of alarm could intensify, he texted our family members to let us know that he’d returned home safely. How many other family members and friends haven’t had that privilege today? Media outlets have flooded us all day with stories and graphics of what happened last night in Las Vegas, yet we have relatively few clues into what motivated the shooter, Stephen Craig Paddock.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that this week, October 1-7, is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), increasing our awareness of mental illness in our midst is important for educating everyone about the symptoms of mental illness, fighting the stigma that prevents affected persons from getting the help they need, and providing support for those persons and their family members. At this stage in the game, we cannot definitively diagnose Mr. Paddock with a mental illness; however, any examination of the extent of his crimes reveals a man who was not well emotionally, socially, morally, or spiritually. Having now claimed the dubious, no, horrific distinction of executing the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Mr. Paddock’s life and motives will be closely studied for the unforeseeable future.
In the meantime, this tragedy leaves some questions for each of us: Might someone you know demonstrate a level of isolation that concerns you? Is there a family member or friend who needs some extra support? Are you acquainted with a child whose changes in academic or social functioning might be a red flag for any clinical concerns? If we’re honest with ourselves, there is probably at least one person who comes to mind. To be sure, we should be praying for these individuals, both near and far. Even more courageous, however, is our willingness to speak up on behalf of the mentally ill, or those who may show signs of mental illness. For the sake of those suffering in Vegas, and for the rest of us by degrees of connection, stand up! Follow #IntoMentalHealth for more information.
À Votre Santé (“To Your Health”),
Dr. Tonya D. Armstrong