In the wake of another tragedy…here’s my “do something!”

By Cynthia Cunningham

It has happened again. Precious lives lost. National outcries of blame. Social media arguments. Never did I imagine that this would become our “normal” reality.  Living in a world where our children and teachers were not safe in the classrooms.

It is a natural reaction for us to have extreme emotions when these shooting happen.  Social media explodes with everyone’s opinion.  It gets ugly.  Everyone feels that their opinion is right and they stubbornly refuse to see things from another view point.

It’s not enough.  I applaud the students that are using their voices following this tragedy to do something.  This is what it takes to make a change.  We can no longer do the same thing and expect change.  We see that it doesn’t work.  It’s time for action.

I am reminded of something I would tell my daughter often during her teen years.  It’s Julia Roberts’s line in a movie called “Step Mom.”  She is telling her step-daughter that she as two choices in life: do the same thing with the same results, or do something.  Life is going to happen whether we do something or nothing.  Why not do something?

Throughout our nation’s history, it took someone doing something to make a change:

  • March 13, 1913, Alice Paul spearheaded the suffrage parade, a gathering in Washington D.C. to call for a constitutional amendment for the right for women to vote.
  • December 5, 1955, Martin Luther King Jr lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott and lead the American civil rights movement.
  • September 8, 1965, Delano Grape Boycott labor strike, with Cesar Chavez, demanded equal wages to the federal minimum wage.

These major events took someone deciding to do something!  Imagine a world where each of us did something.  It might not be pretty in the beginning.  Think of all the struggles of the above three events.  They were not successful overnight.  But they did not give up.  And as a result a change was made.

Consider what changes are needed that could prevent these tragic events. What could you do to make a change?  It sure doesn’t help to just complain on social media.  Re-think your actions.

Sounds like this latest tragedy had a lot of missed signs. Missed opportunities for help and to prevent this awful outcome.  But we can’t know what we are not taught.

So here is my “Do Something”.  I am proud to be a part of This movement was launched by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute and their partners to increase awareness that most mental illnesses are treatable and to offer messages of hope and recovery to Texans and their families.

The goal of Okay to Say is to change the conversation and perceptions around mental illness, which ultimately can lead to:

  • Growing understanding, advocacy and support for the mentally ill.
  • Improving access to community services for diagnosis and treatment.
  • Accelerating progress in the quality and delivery of mental health care.

If we make it okay to talk about our mental health, it would be just another health issue that had no embarrassment.  Then those living with issues would feel no shame to seek help. With more people bravely acknowledging issues, more services would be needed.  This could lead to more united voices asking for change.  Our government would recognize that we must have better mental health care.  It takes us all talking about it to raise awareness and end the stigma that has caused so many to hide their struggles.

If you want to take it a step further, educate yourself!  Most of us have taken a CPR class.  We now know how to help someone having a medical crisis.  But few of us know what to do when someone is having a mental health crisis.  So educate yourself!  Take a Mental Health First Aid class.

Some things you learn about in a Mental Health First Aide class:

  • Mental Health Problems: Depression, Anxiety Disorders, Psychosis, Substance Use Disorder, Eating Disorders
  • First Aid for: Suicidal Thoughts, Self-Injury, Panic Attacks, Traumatic Events, Acute Psychosis, Alcohol Abuse and Aggressive Behavior

We have the Mental Health First Aid classes available in our community!  Just reach out if you want to learn more:

  • NAMI Waco offers Adult Mental Health First Aid
  • HOTRMHMR offers Youth Mental Health First Aid

See how easy it is to do something?  If more people took these trainings, they would know how to help when they see the warning signs.  They would not have to look back and have regrets for not recognizing a sign.  We can do better!

All it takes is you making taking the step.  Just do something!  Be active!  Start a movement… in whatever you are passionate about.

Cynthia Cunningham, a Wacoan since age 2, is the Executive Director for NAMI Waco.  She lives with her husband of 28 years, Bobby, and two spoiled dogs and one royal cat!  Her passion is educating others about mental health.  She can be contacted at:

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

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