Mental illness at the core of school shootings

With a huge spike in university campus violence over the past couple of years, one would have to be living under a rock to be unaware of all of the recent school shootings. Even if you have not been watching the news, it is impossible to avoid the campus shootings that have been making headlines. The Columbine High School shooting, which occurred in 1999 in Colorado, was one of the most well-known and deadliest school shootings, leaving 13 dead and 21 injured. I feel that this event really marked the beginning of continuous on-campus violence making headlines, and after Columbine and the fear it sparked, we began to see more frequent school shootings.
One possible reason for this is that the perpetrators may be trying to gain notoriety and to be “remembered” for what they’ve done. The fact that their names are in the news for weeks, months and years after they carry out these murderous acts may be inspiring others to do “copy-cat” shootings.
This month alone there have been four school campus shootings, all of which resulted in at least one injury or death. With the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon being the most recent, it seems that not even a couple of days can go by without hearing about another one of these incidences. This past Friday, two college campus shootings occurred leaving two students dead, one at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, the other in Houston at Texas Southern University.
These events are a form of domestic terrorism, and are typically carried out by young white males who have some sort of mental illness or severe depression and they also tend to be socially isolated.
One example is the Virginia Tech Massacre, a young man had been declared mentally ill after running into legal problems but he was still able to purchase guns because he wasn’t institutionalized. There are so many gaps in our mental health system in this country and it pains me to think of how many lives could have been saved if our government had paid more attention to the mentally ill in our communities. I am nauseated every time I think about Sandy Hook Elementary and the 20 innocent children that died that day at the hands of a young man that had OCD, and had been unofficially diagnosed with schizophrenia.  
I know in my heart that the issue with this spike in violence is not entirely caused by gun control- or a lack thereof. I have said time and time again: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. The number of responsible gun owners far outweighs the number of individuals that purchase guns to carry out deranged acts on the innocent, and the government is trying to spark this political debate about gun control, pitting conservative vs. liberal, democrat vs. republican etc., so they do not have to take responsibility and face the central issue.  
This mental illness crisis began in 1955, with the process of deinstitutionalization- or the removal of the majority of all mentally ill patients from their facilities, as well as permanent closure of these facilities.
Once medications became widely available for the mentally ill, they were sent home and drugged up- no longer under the constant care of psychiatrists and caregivers. These medications used to treat depression, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses have been known to have very severe, adverse side effects, causing an increase in suicidal and violent thoughts. If we are drugging our kids at an early age, I can only imagine that the adverse side effects would grow and worsen over time.
This issue of gun violence in our society in such a complex one, but it is ignorant to put the blame all on gun control policies. I feel that the solution will be better gun control policies- including extensive criminal background and mental illness checks, paired with a renewed focus on the mentally ill in our society.
We have turned our backs on a sick and vulnerable population in our community and sadly, even sparking a discussion about mental illness seems to be very taboo. It pains me to say that until we focus on healthcare in general, I don’t see anything changing in this country anytime soon, and by focusing entirely on gun control I don’t feel we are moving in the right direction at all.