The tragedy in Connecticut makes it impossible for me to talk about the joys of travel. When so many lives are wiped out in just an instant, the lighter side of life becomes unreachable for a time. Many take up metaphorical arms after, fighting for/against gun control, blaming one party or way of life for the atrocities committed, assuming in the shock waves emanating outward after such an event that a single, specific issue could cause something so sick and complex.
What it did instead was make me think about cultural differences between countries and continents, religions and politics, and wonder what — if anything — we can learn from each other. And it scares me, because I fear that we are too mired in our own petty causes and divisions to enact real change.
Humans – whether Americans, Brits, Argentinian, Icelandic or any other nationality – are incredibly diverse and complicated. Think of your own life and the things that motivate you. Money, job security, love, laws — there are a few basic tenants we all follow. Even still, I bet that you do things from time to time that don’t fit into those motivations. You slack off at work even though you’re on deadline and your boss is breathing down your neck. You pick a fight with your spouse or blow money on non-essential items when you’re broke. You speed when you’re running late even though you know you could get a ticket. Why do we do these things? There’s no immediate answer even in the mind of a sane person whose brain functions as it should. Now, consider those processes in the mind of someone whose brain isn’t wired the way it should be, and things get a whole lot more hazy – and dangerous.
Our mental healthcare system is broken. This is not a staggering statement or a shocking observation made by me, a PR rep/writer/traveler. This is a fact. You can read details about the problem in this touching but disturbing article by the mother of a troubled teenage boy or by reading Pete Early’s outstanding memoir, Crazy.
I’m not an expert, but an observer. And we all have a stake in this game. Americans aren’t alone in this mess — consider the Norway attacks of 2011 or the Japanese stabbing attacks of 2008 and 2010. What is troubling to me is that, even though our mental healthcare system simply doesn’t work, we seem to be intent on sharing it. You can read more about this phenomenon in the New York Times.
We need a global referendum on mental health. No country is immune to tragedy, and if we don’t take true action soon, more will suffer sooner rather than later. Humans learn and grow though sharing experiences – if our leaders can come together, discuss the problems, consult international experts and reach a consensus, we have a chance to make real, significant change. Sometimes a chance is all you get, and we need to take it.
What’s the next step? To be honest, I don’t know. Leaving it to the politicians may not work, but perhaps sharing your concerns with them is appropriate. I’ll leave that to you to decide. The only thing I am certain of is that doing nothing will yield no results. And that would be a crime.