Uvalde Elementary School shooting " A mother's perspective" by Christy Smith

Published on 1 June 2022 at 20:07

On May 24, 2022, another "troubled teen" opened fire at Uvalde Elementary School. I have been speechless and unable to regain my footing following this horrific event. It has had a deep impact on me because my child is currently manic and exhibits certain behaviors during his episodes. Thank goodness he is stable now and able to function, unlike before. I have so many thoughts about this that I have yet to put them into words. All I can do is cry, my heart is full of pain. 


As a mother, I am concerned about my children's safety at school, and like everyone else, I held my babies that night for fear that something bad would happen to them. I can only imagine the anguish these families are feeling. However, I am the mother who has feared from both sides. We as a family are becoming increasingly vulnerable, and I may face criticism, but it is time to discuss all brain disorders without fear of stigma. We cannot begin to change and heal as a country if we fear telling our story. I know I am not alone in these feelings. 


However, I cannot begin to explain to you the depths of how this has affected me. I started blogging earlier this year to give a voice to families like mine. I know I have to be real with you. I have to speak the truth to give our families and children a voice. I have to fight to change the stigma. I ask you to stand with me. 


The words, “I will kill you in your sleep”, and “I will kill you soon” can never be unheard. These words came from my child once, as we were frantically fighting and clinging to every thread of hope for stability. I visit them still time to time. My child was physically aggressive and there were bruises. Many bruises. We have been stable for a year, but when we needed it most our system failed us. It fails numerous families and children. 


The Texas school shooting has brought me to my knees. I can not help, but look back in 2019 and 2020 when I said, “What if?!” I broke and began to cry my eyes out speaking to all our therapists, the school, and anyone who would just listen because it feels like no one does. I at the time feared my child. I continued saying, “If I don't find help for my baby… What if my kid is next? What if I am that mom?!" 


I was fighting to save my son's life while he was feeling suicidal and homicidal at a very young age. I begged my county to help support me in a short-term residential stay. Funding is far and beyond what I could ever afford. The funding wasn't there.  The 3-12 day inpatient hospitalizations were not long enough to evaluate and stabilize my child. Even worse, most of the time when we needed a bed there was no bed availability as they were very limited. Furthermore, it leaves us in an intense crisis to figure out at home. I was given options to sign my child to the state or continue following the available programs and system. What my child needed was immediate help. These programs were not immediate, and safety at that time for my other children was a concern. Instead, I was told, "My problem was my attitude". I was a mother doing everything I could to save her child and his future. I was left to feel hopeless. I refused to give up. 


 I will not give up, no matter how dark this path has been. I am not going silent. Caregivers are afraid to discuss the truth and seriousness of the situation until they either break down, as I did, or it is too late. We bear the burden of fighting alone. We are judged. Our children are being judged for mental disorders and depression. They are viewed as troubled children. They are turned over to the justice system rather than being treated properly. Our children are not recognized. Unlike other illnesses and physical health concerns, mental health is the most difficult to understand, explain, or discuss because it is so stigmatized. A mother's fight goes unnoticed, and she is judged as a bad parent. The hope begins to fade away. We become silent. Our children in this country require mental health care and better immediate crisis plans. Our nation is completely failing them. Mental health hospitals are so scarce that there is almost nothing in place, except the juvenile system, which provides no assistance. It simply teaches an innocent child to fall deeper into abandonment and vengeful feelings. All we can do is keep surviving day after day until we strike lucky and see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you are not lucky... Something horrible occurs. 


Most days, it feels like you are just sitting there waiting for something bad to happen. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick's statement stung me. He said, “Tucker since I was elected back with Greg Abbott back in 2014, this is now the fourth major mass shooting that we've had. We had Sutherland Springs, the church. We had the Walmart in El Paso, Odessa, and then...four years ago and one week, we had the shooting at Santa Fe, where we lost eight students and two teachers, and I will tell you, Tucker, that I've been to a lot of funerals, a lot of services, a lot of hospitals, nothing compares to what Bill [Melugin] just said about the loss of a child. And I think when crimes like this happen, this is pure evil, that it impacts a whole nation. Every parent and every grandparent who has a child envisions what they would feel if it happened to them. This is something that goes to the core of our soul, all of us, and I hope the president tries to unify, not divide us on this, because we as a nation will always remember this." He goes on to say, " These children at this school, as adults, one day, will never forget it. These teachers, this community of 16,000 — the school system only had 4,000 students in the entire system — Tucker. So, these are crimes that get to the very core of who we are as people and I think as people, we have to look internally and ask how did we get here? This was an evil act. There's a lot that we're going to learn, and it's going to unfold in the days and weeks ahead this shooter. But tonight, we've got to unify in prayer. We have to unify in faith. We have to unify and [ask] who are we?" 


My child is not "pure evil"; he has a disorder that requires intensive treatment. He adores his family and friends... He has a beautiful heart. He is very compassionate toward others. He would share all of his candy just to make you happy. He enjoys snuggling and carrying around his little blue bunny and thinks like a child half his age. He is funny, smart, and lovable, but he suffers from episodes without proper medication, as do many other children. He is bipolar and has autism. Instead of receiving treatment for his disorders, he was cuffed and taken from home for a 72-hour hold on the day of his 11th birthday because our mental health system is the justice system. Caregivers, including myself, are frequently told, "You must get him into the system before he can receive the services he requires." Without knowing what "the system" meant at the time, I followed the path I was told to take. I wanted desperately to help my child. Instead of being helped, my innocent-minded child was traumatized and will have to live with this memory for the rest of his life. 


Today, I challenge Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and anyone else watching this story unfold. I ask you... Why are we just bandaging the wounds from yet another school shooting? Why has mental health come up again in the context of gun control?


For so many years, when unimaginable events occur, we have followed the same pattern of initially blaming the parents. We look into the history of both the parents and the child. We begin to blame negligence and parents for not parenting their children. We are considering arming teachers. Then we fight about gun control. How about we try a different perspective? What if we began by advocating for mental health and funding more support and hospitals for children? What if we REALLY started talking about change? What can we conclude from this, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick? We can learn that our problems stem from the children we have repeatedly failed to recognize. We need to provide adequate mental health support and eliminate all red tape and hoops that prevent people from seeking help. Only then can we consider making changes to gun regulations and have success. To heal, it must start with the bottom layer. We are only scraping the surface in our country. 


What I will say right now is that this is not an act of "pure evil," as claimed. This was yet another example of a failed mental health system. Another child and family, as well as many innocent lives, were lost because, instead of providing the necessary support for this child and all others when red flags appeared, we turned our gaze away. How did this child make it through the system? These children, known as "troubled teens," spiral out of control. We must begin to recognize as a nation when a child is crying out for help in a very dark world, feeling abandoned, failed, unrecognized by his internal battles, and left to fight alone against all of the bullying. Their internal conflicts are manifesting themselves through behavior. I do not underestimate the gravity of what he did. It hurts me to the core. Again, I am in complete shock. 


However, I have struggled with the mental health system. I understand how difficult it is to get proper assistance, especially during a crisis. As a mother of a special needs child, I understand where the family and many other families find themselves. The question was, "How did we get here? "Who are we?" We are mothers and fathers fighting for help for our children who have brain disorders or are mentally unstable in some way, such as being depressed, suicidal, or being bullied to the point of seeking vengeance, and the lack of mental health and support during the crisis is how we got here. 


As a mother who has fought and continues to fight the system, I know that when there is a need for help in CRISIS, there is none because the resources are too limited. Hospitals are dispersed across states, and emergency rooms can be crowded for hours. Then there is the traveling from place to place with an unstable child, hoping to find availability if you are lucky.


It is difficult for me to discuss the aggressive behaviors that occur behind closed doors, as well as the horrifying words that can shock you. Some families live every day as if they were prisoners. They are locked away in their homes, with door alarms, sharps, and any household item that could be used as a weapon kept in safety boxes throughout the house. Surviving and monitoring the safety of one's family minute by minute. Families are taught to teach their children a safety plan because they have no other options. 


What we can discover is that this is not a gun issue. Although I believe regulatory changes could benefit us, I also believe that support for mental health has dwindled over time. Change begins with our children. This is not just an adult problem or a gun issue. Fund the resources required to construct more mental health hospitals. Fund programs to assist needy families, even in smaller towns where they cannot afford it. There is a national crisis in the shortage of psychiatric treatment for children.


Another important one is teaching our children that IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING, and explaining what that means. I would also like to request that school systems resume their support for ZERO TOLERANCE BULLYING. 


My heart is heavy for the families of Texas. There are no words I can say that will heal your broken hearts and loss. However, I can fight for change, and I believe this is where it should begin.