Posted in Bullying, Mental Health, School Violence

The danger of labels…

The day after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary there was a lady that was being interviewed on national news. She wasn’t being interviewed because she actually, personally knew anyone that was involved in the shooting. No, she was being interviewed because someone, who knew someone, who knew the shooter, had told her what they had been told the shooter was like. Now, I have an issue with the fact that she was being interviewed in the first place, how irresponsible can you get? What is essentially gossip is now not only fact, but fact worthy of being broadcast on national news? But, I had a much bigger problem with what this lady had to say. She stood there in front of the TV cameras and talked about how she was told that you could tell that he was just a little odd, and that he had a hard time with eye contact, and that he was obviously not “mainstream”. She said all this like obviously all those things were clearly warning signs that a person is a monster. I can not stand people who, after a tragedy has occurred, go on the news and triumphantly crow about how they always knew that there was something wrong with the person who committed the crime. But this is even worse. This lady didn’t even actually know anything herself, she just wanted to see herself on national TV talking about what she “heard” the shooter was like. And people let her, and even repeated what she had to say.

What about what she had to say? It’s complete B.S. of course. Since when does not being “mainstream” automatically mean that you are an evil psychopath?! Now, I’m not saying that the shooter didn’t have any of those characteristics. What I’m saying is that A LOT of people could be described the same way. My husband and I talked about how what she described not only could have been us, but a lot of our friends. None of us are a danger to anyone else.

We need to stop describing people who commit these sort of crimes with words like “odd”, “different”, “not social”, “not mainstream”, “a loner”, etc. It’s obvious from the crimes that they have committed that there is/was something wrong with them, that they are not like most of us, as most of us could never do the things that they have done. The danger of using these words over and over and over again to describe these people, is that other people start looking around them and saying “So and so isn’t as social as I am, that must mean that they are dangerous.” or “That child is a little odd, they must be capable of the same things that this person did.” And these people would more than likely be wrong. Most people who might fit these descriptions are not going to be a danger to anyone, unless they show specific warning signs.

What all too often happens though is people, especially school age children, will look around them at those who are different from them and start to bully them. Kids will look around them for a scapegoat, someone to take out their fears and frustrations on. And since the adults on the news have told them that the kid that is different from them is probably a monster in disguise, that poor child gets blamed for all the bad and scary things that are happening in the world.

How do I know all this? When I was in high school, Columbine happened. Myself and bunch of my friends were bullied a lot more, and a lot worse, afterward. Simply because we weren’t “mainstream”. We were different, and we were proud of it, and for that we were treated as though we must have fantasies of doing horrible things. None of us were capable of doing such things. We were (and are) the nicest, most sincere, most caring group of people that you could ever meet. We just didn’t like that same things that the “popular” crowd did. We didn’t dress the same. We liked different music. Our families weren’t all as well off as most of the families in an affluent little New England town. Most of all we didn’t care to try to be “popular”. We didn’t care if we didn’t fit in. 

How is being even more intolerant of peoples’ differences going to help anything? We need to celebrate our differences. Embrace them. If there are people among us that need help, we need to stop pushing them further away, stop shunning them, and actually help them. 

After things like this happen we need to stop asking what specific mental illness the person had, because we need to stop looking at all people with mental illnesses as dangerous and damaged. I have several mental illnesses. I have been un-medicated for years. I am tired of people telling me that I am dangerous because of the fact that I have some disorders and am not on medication.  You don’t know me, and you don’t know my situation. I could never be capable of doing the things that these people have done.