From Amber Smock, Access Living Director of Advocacy
First, a heads up: this email will address the difficult topics of trauma, gun violence and mental health stigma. Feel free to stop reading or delete this email if you need to.
Yesterday, America was devastated by the news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, at a large outdoor concert. This was the 521st mass shooting in our country in the 477 days since the Pulse shooting in Orlando ( see this link for data ). We at Access Living offer our heartfelt sympathies to the hundreds of victims and thousands of victim's family members. Many of the victims who were shot, and other attendees present, will join our community as newly disabled persons. We also send our warmest wishes for recovery to the many disabled attendees at the concert; traumatic events are made extra traumatic when already coping with a disability.
As disability advocates: we ask that each of you be alert to the tendency in both media and social media to stigmatize people with psychiatric disabilities in these crises. It cannot be said often enough that people with mental health issues are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime. We also cannot, as a society, assume that persons who commit mass shootings have psychiatric issues. We cannot allow ourselves the laziness of writing such people off with stigmatizing language like "crazy" or demented. We MUST remain accountable for supporting our community members with mental health issues at this time; we must remind them, and ourselves, that we are loved and that we must keep helping one another. And, we cannot allow terms like "crazy" to be a way of letting perpetrators off the hook for their crimes, because that is a cover for racism, whether you mean it or not.
As social justice advocates: we also ask that you be alert to the media's silence on the pattern of mass shootings being committed by white men, and their characterizations as "lone wolves" without a connection to terrorist networks. As a society, we have a problem with looking at these incidents as "terrorist" or religiously based if committed by persons of color, and turning a blind eye to such possibilities if committed by white men. These biases affect all of us by stigmatizing people of color, people who are Muslim in particular, and perpetuating white privilege that is a major part of allowing these mass shootings to happen without significant intervention to American society as a whole. Say something if you see someone being racist, ableist or sexist.
You can stop the stigma.
You can support your fellow people with disabilities.
You can be part of the change.
Today, check around your community and see who needs support. Many will be calling for ways to stop gun violence. We can fight for an end to the violence, while supporting each other and defeating bias as well.
Director of Advocacy, Access Living