I wanted to break the royal “we” again for a moment to address the horrible acts that happened in Orlando, Florida, this past weekend.
According to news reports, early this past Sunday morning, a gunman walked into Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub, and opened fire. Numerous news reports have been issued, and I won’t repeat them all. The facts that are important are these: 50 people were murdered in cold blood and 53 were wounded by someone announcing allegiance to a terrorist group. The sole cause of this massacre: hatred. It is now the largest mass shooting in US history. Lives were destroyed, and it has rocked America to the core.
After watching the visceral reactions on social media along with the outrage and outcries after innocent individuals died celebrating the very lives they were gathered to honor, I believe that mental health should very much be a top line item now. I hope we can all agree these senseless acts of violence are shocking and traumatizing, and that many of us should realize we are impacted in some way.
Edmund Burke once said, “No power so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” This act of violence has created a shockwave of fear that’s further pulling asunder the delicate fabric currently holding our society together. The individual(s) who created this situation fully understand the divisive use of this wicked instrument of fear, and they know the damage to our minds and souls will last forever. Right this minute, we must all put our political leanings aside and help the human beings who will live through the aftermath of one of the greatest acts of hatred on US soil. The list of mental health needs will be extensive, and we must do everything we can to care for the bodies and minds of those affected. We must also take care of those peripherally affected, members of the LGBTQ community who will process this event as they continue to fight for their rights in this country and around the world.
On some level, we must all practice self-care right now. Constant scrolling through hateful comments and constantly-breaking news picks at the mind, never allowing the trauma to heal. If we are to move forward for a greater good, we must grieve, we must breathe, and we must take a moment to care for ourselves and for those who are affected. PTSD, anxiety disorders — they are real, and they can last a lifetime if left untreated.
If you or someone needs help, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) can help you find resources, and their helpline will direct you to the right assistance in your area. That number is 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), and it’s open Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET. If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, there are specific resources designed for you from NAMI, and GLAAD also offers national resources and support. But make the call. Talk to someone. Get the help you need. It is absolutely available, and there is no shame in asking for it.
If you are looking to help the victims of this disaster, blood donations are critical right now. Here’s how to help.
For those of us watching the news and feeling the collective anger, fear, and pain, take a moment for your own mental health. Take a walk. Get some air. Call a friend. Journal. Pray. Gather with your community. Call your doctor. Make an appointment to see a therapist if you feel you need it. But process your pain with people who can help you. Now more than ever is when we must put fear aside and come together as a country, and if we take a moment to care for ourselves and each other, I pray we may do just that. With a little hope and grace, all good things are possible.
But for now, I’d like to ask for a moment of silence for those who lost their lives in Orlando, and for those still fighting for their lives in hospitals around central Florida. I’ll peacefully request a moment of reverence for the parents, partners, husbands and wives, children, friends, and communities that lost someone Sunday morning. Finally, I’ll kindly ask that we all take a moment to breathe, to heal our hearts and minds, and to do whatever we can so this horrible tragedy causes no deeper wounds.