Walmart and the American Way

The American flag outside Walmart Corporate offices in Arkansas. Photo by Walmart Corporate, used here under a Creative Commons License. 

After yet more mass shootings recently, including one that took place inside a Walmart, the iconic American superstore announced it was no longer selling certain types of ammunition, would stop selling handguns in the final few stores that did so, and asked that customers not openly carry their guns in Walmart. Outspoken gun advocates denounced the action, which essentially amounts to a minor inconvenience since there are other places where individuals can buy guns and ammunition, but perhaps none as convenient as Walmart. Indeed, from big cities to small towns it is hard to find yourself too far from your nearest Walmart. Yet one has to wonder why mental health care isn’t as convenient as Walmart. 

I do not care if you are pro guns or opposed to them. This post is not about gun control. It is about Walmart and the American way. There is something deeply troubling when you can get ammunition for your gun from somewhere as convenient as Walmart, but you can’t get ammunition for your fight with mental illnesses as easily.

As I have said before, mental illness does not cause the horrible mass shootings that we see far too often. Yet in a country where roughly 1 in 4 will suffer from some sort of mental illness in their lifetime, and roughly 1 in 3 own guns, why is one so much more accessible than the other? When mental health funding is cut, or a treatment facility shuts their doors, why is there not the same outrage as when ammunition is slightly more inconvenient to buy? 

The answer of course is the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues. The idea that we are dangerous, infectious somehow. It is a stigma that is as common in America as Walmart. It is the stigma that prevents those who are struggling from finding their voice, and that lack of a voice is responsible for the lack of adequate resources being dedicated to this problem. This problem, this inequality in accessibility, is not the fault of gun owners, for they have found their voice. Rather it is the fault of a society that will not let those suffering find theirs. 

My hope is that as people open up about their struggles, the country realizes that a mental health diagnosis does not make one dangerous, but that we do need help. We need mental health care in every city and town. We need care options that are as common and as accessible as Walmart.

So I thank you for doing your part by supporting this blog, and hopefully others like it. I thank you for supporting those of us who are attempting to use our voices to break that stigma. I thank those of you who recognize and are supportive of the need for more mental health care. And I hope that someday soon things change.

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