It’s a Monday morning, and it’s impossible to concentrate at work. I’m not distracted by deadlines or meetings, although I probably should be. I can’t stop thinking about Orlando. Even though it’s nearly 3,000 miles away from my home in Oakland, this tragedy feels so real and close. It might be because I keep reading the news and seeing more names of those whose lives were cut short on what should have been just another fun night out. I think about my family, my friends, my coworkers, all of the people I know in the LGBT community, and I feel sick to my stomach.
I also have a terrible feeling of déjà vu. Nearly every week there is a new body count to add to our nation’s list of mass shootings. Is any place sacred? Is any community spared? The answer seems to be no.
And then I think about how the United States handles – or doesn’t handle – mental health. From my own experiences trying to navigate our health care system to the systemic issues that exclude so many people from treatment who truly need it…what if we lived in a world where it was easier to find a therapist than a firearm? Picture what that would look like. Now picture the opposite – we’re living it.
So what do we do? I’m writing this Perspective because I don’t have that answer, and I imagine many people are feeling like I am. I know that there people who are working tirelessly to change this epidemic of gun violence, and to transform our mental health system. I even know some of these people personally, and they are amazing. But they’re not enough. When will our nation’s leaders get serious about stopping gun violence and improving mental health care? How many more people need to be shot and killed before that becomes a priority? If these questions sound redundant, it’s because they are. I’m ready for a new reality. I’m ready to turn thoughts and prayers into action and change. I don’t know for sure how we’ll get there, but I know I’m not alone.
With a Perspective, I’m Bianca Taylor.