These types of stories are complicated at best, and at worst turn into the most horrible examples of the human existence in so many ways. This past week, a man flew into the Fort Lauderdale airport, loaded a gun in the bathroom outside baggage claim, and opened fire into the crowd, randomly shooting into the crowd. CNN reports five people were killed, eight others were injured, and the nation stood paralyzed as another mass shooting occurred on US soil.
But that’s not all. The shooting suspect, identified as Esteban Santiago, an honorably discharged Army officer and Iraq war veteran, was reportedly seeking mental health assistance. According to an article in The Guardian, the suspect’s aunt said he “had been having mental health issues after returning from a year-long tour in the Middle East,” going so far as to say that Santiago spent time in hospital over mental health concerns after serving in Iraq. The article go into more detail, but the first statements are all that’s needed for the stigma against mental health to go into overdrive and for those working fastidiously to eradicate it to point to the ever-increasing need for more mental health assistance for veterans. Actually, not just veterans: everyone who needs it.
The constant labeling of individuals who suffer from mental health concerns as dangerous killers is what prevents so many from seeking the help they so desperately need. It also raises the question of what assistance soldiers are getting while in the service, and what our responsibility is as a society to take care of those who risk their lives for us. Now more than ever, we must gather as a country to support mental health benefits, education, and assistance for our population who so desperately need it. We must take care of our veterans and guard their health while in service and afterwards. Mental health is part of that care, and we must attend to it immediately.