I was sitting in bed, eating my Greek frozen yogurt while surfing the Internet.  Anderson Cooper was on as background noise.  (I need that.)  Something pulled my attention away from Etsy, however, and it was a girl crying on TV.  She wanted everyone to know that her mother was not just a number.  She was a person.  Not a statistic.  She liked Hall and Oates.  She counted bluebirds for a local refuge.  She was months away from retiring.  She would do anything for anyone.

I watched the tears streaming down the girl’s face, thinking about how I was sitting there eating yogurt and aimlessly browsing online, when that girl on my TV…

That girl is real.  

She’s real.  This person has just lost her mom, due to a senseless act of violence, and I’m just watching her.  The same way I watched the Boston bombing survivors on TV.  The same way I watch any tragedy unfold.

I have never experienced the level of grief this girl must be going through.  I can’t even begin to understand it.  And something about watching this particular outpouring of grief on national TV suddenly struck me.  

Another mass shooting in this country.  Another time to ask, “Why?” and interview bystanders.  Another chance to broadcast the heartache of people who are strangers to us.  At this point, the mass shooting sprees seem to happen on a weekly basis; there are so many.  It’s hard to keep track of them anymore.  Not even shootings.  Sometimes bombings, like Boston.  Acts of violence.  But have we started to view it as if it were a movie?  Have we all become completely desensitized?  

I believe we have, at least to a degree.  I’m sure I have, and I don’t watch violent movies or TV shows.  The thing is, though, instead of always trying to put the pieces together after the tragedy’s happened, why aren’t we doing more to prevent it from happening in the first place?

This time it happened at the Washington Navy Yard.  Aaron Alexis killed twelve people.  Twelve people.  Twelve people.  Twelve people.  Let it sink in for a second.  Think about it.  Think of the twelve people you love most, and imagine if they had been the victims.  

Twelve people.

It’s not fair.  It’s not right, and it’s not fair.  Unfortunately, it’s already happened, so there’s nothing that can be done to prevent heartache in this case. Yet we should be learning from these acts of violence.  What always comes out as soon as the gunman, or bomber, or bad guy is identified?

Mental.  Illness.

It always goes back to that.  How was the person’s psychological health?  It’s already coming out that Aaron Alexis was mentally ill.  I realize hindsight is 20/20, but could more have been done?

Were the signs there and ignored?

Of course, it would be impossible to prevent everyone from committing violent acts.  Other factors besides mental health come into play, and many people can hide their symptoms.  I do think, however, that we can do more to help those who are in need of mental health services.

In this area we have the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize, and Hardin Counties.  The MHRSB provides funding for several services.  The Coleman Center treats adults for mental health issues and also provides drug and alcohol treatment.  The Family Resource Centers help children and youth with mental health issues, offer drug and alcohol treatment, and do school outreach programs.  PVFF specializes in prevention programs for safe kids and communities.  UMADAOP offers alcohol and drug treatment and intervention.  SAFY focuses on youth and adult mental health and alcohol and drug treatment, and also does school outreach programs.

While we can’t prevent the tragedy from happening in Washington, we could possibly prevent one from happening here.  We can all do our own part in helping to create a dialogue about mental illness.  We can help erase the stigma.  We can help refer someone for treatment before a tragedy happens.

We can help keep grief-stricken, crying daughters off the news.