Gun violence the symptom of a larger "dis-ease" in society
By Nicole Dubus
The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut was a rip in our societal fabric whose threads can be traced to inadequate gun laws, few resources for those with mental illness, and a culture that values violence as a form of entertainment and conflict resolution. The Newtown massacre is a symptom of a larger "dis-ease" within our society. Like many diseases, symptoms erupt in infected areas. In our society, infected areas are the disadvantaged neighborhoods where violence is too prevalent, and the death of innocents too frequent. And like a disease, we know that it has spread when symptoms erupt in previously uninfected areas. A classroom of very, very, young children murdered by an apparently mentally ill man with an assault weapon is a symptom erupting in what was once a non-infected area. As one teacher stated, “In those grades, school is a magical world.” Our disease has spread to uninfected areas. The disease will continue to spread until we address the causes.
Some of the causes lay in the multi-billion dollar gun industry. Some lay in the blockbuster movies and media that grow more and more violent in the attempt to satiate an audience that seems to yearn for more graphic violence. The causes lay in a culture that feeds our fears more than our compassion. Some of the causes lay in the day to day decisions of governments and policy makers that decide who gets resources and who do not. The causes lay in a country that struggles between valuing the self-sufficient individual versus a caring country that strives to meet the needs of all, especially our most vulnerable.
The event was tragic. Doing nothing about this is even more tragic. This rip will never be mended; it will become part of the tapestry of our society. The personal loss of those most affected will live on in their families for generations. For the rest of us, our society’s "dis-ease" continues to affect us all. But from this day forward we can weave new threads. We can cure the causes of this "dis-ease". Below are some small steps, can you think of more?
Call your congressperson and voice your opinion about assault weapons.
Talk to others: tweet, Facebook, IM, YouTube, and tell them what you think about assault weapons. Offer solutions.
Create a checklist for primary care providers that list risk factors. For Adam Lanza, it appeared his mother was seeking help for her son who was too old for children services and not low-functioning enough for adult services. If his primary care doctor understood that she was seeking help, felt frustrated and isolated, and if he knew she had guns at home, could he have called police/adult services/human services to intervene?
Develop federally funded programs that provide structured outpatient services to adults with mental illness.
Provide support services for parents of children and adult children with mental illness.
Decide as a society that violence is not entertainment and stop paying to watch violent movies.
Develop school programs that teach emotional intelligence starting in preschool.
Nicole Dubus is an Assistant Professor in the Social Work Department at Wheelock College. She has been active in the field since the mid-1980s, working in northern California and Massachusetts in public and private settings. Her research interests are in community-based research, home-visitation programs, early parenthood, culturally-sensitive clinical skills, and the experiences of refugees throughout the life course. Her field and academic experiences are in the areas of addictions, health care that addresses the physical-emotional-social-economic well-being of the individual, feminism, relational-cultural theory, social justice, direct practice skills, and program evaluation.