Would Mental Health Services Fix Mass Shootings?: Offering Complex Solutions to Complex Problems

Marisol’s mother abandoned her on the streets of Mexico when she was four years old and Marisol survived, finding adults to give her food and shelter. For the next two years she slept under pieces of well-used cardboard, foraged for rotten food in garbage cans, endured physical and sexual abuse, and found a best friend in an alley cat. At age six someone dropped her off at an orphanage and she began to heal. The workers became her mothers, aunties, and confidents. By the time she graduated from high school she was one of the top students and a role model for the other children, working at an after school job and volunteering at a local food bank. Marisol turned her life completely around with hard work and accessing the resources around her. She addressed her psychological and physical scars, and inspired countless people.

Then one morning Marisol was gone. She took all of her belongs and left the orphanage in the early morning hours. Over the following weeks everyone in her circle was contacted, but no one knew anything. A few years later someone saw her on the streets with two little girls. It turns out Marisol left the orphanage to return to living on the streets as a prostitute. People offered over and over again to help her, whether it was returning to the orphanage, getting support from a social worker to sign up for assistance, or simply covering her and her children’s healthcare costs. No. Marisol’s consistent, heart-breaking answer was no.

As a psychotherapist I’m often in discussions with people saying, if only everyone had access to a wide variety of resources, including mental health, then everyone would be healthy. When something unbelievably devastating like the Orlando shootings happens people take it one step further and say, if everyone had access to mental health services then tragedies like this would never happen.

I am one of the first people to champion everyone having access to quality resources, including mental health. However, I do not believe that this means everyone will choose to access them, nor will everyone choose to listen to the professional assessments offered. Sometimes instead of sitting with our own feelings of grief, outrage, helplessness and hopeless, we try to avoid feeling by focusing our attention on simplistic solutions or hot-button topics.

Maybe instead of looking for a quick fix we can take the time to honor the pain, suffering and devastating loss in ourselves, our communities, our country and our world. Then we can sit down with each other and begin to address these complex challenges with the attention they deserve.