On the night of the latest mass shooting, I made beef stew and cinnamon rolls with my children. After dinner, we gathered on the living room floor to play Haikubes, a poetry game where players compose haikus with prompts from rolled dice. We laughed uproariously at each other’s silly poetry.
After I put my children to bed, I turned on the news. That newscast could have been the same one I watched on April 20, 1999, or July 20, 2012, or December 14, 2012, or September 16, 2013, or May 23, 2014, or June 17, 2015. And these are only the most deadly of the numerous mass shootings that have played out on our screens since Columbine.
As the mother of a teenager who has bipolar disorder, a mother who once worried about my own son’s violent behavior, I see mass shootings differently. I see promises broken, a society that has failed to help our most vulnerable.
Nothing has changed since Newtown, since Columbine. This is the price of our silence. I see the price of our silence around mental illness, and worse, the price of our collective failure to act. In the inevitable connection of mental illness to these incomprehensible acts of violence, I also see stigma — the perpetuation of fear and ignorance that leads to ongoing and pervasive discrimination against families like mine.