Let's Take The Politics Out Of School Shootings

Let's Take The Politics Out Of School Shootings

So, please do not use school shootings as a reason to get in a Facebook fight.
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The American dream is to send our beloved children off to school where they can flourish and learn. On the other hand, an important aspect of the American dream is the second amendment.

How shall we move forward so these two aspects of the American dream can coexist?

The answer to that question will not be discovered in my lifetime (or maybe ever). There is no way to save an entire country from horrific events like ones we have seen too many times. So, let’s stop focusing on which is the “correct” way to handle the situation and look at the broader perspective.

This week, social media is flooded with a variety of political opinions after the Florida school shooting that I would rather not explore. I am sure everyone is familiar with the different opinions that unveil after a mass shooting.

Unfortunately, we are too familiar with them.

I am a senior in high school who is hardly involved with politics. Putting political beliefs aside, I focus on the victims’ faces and names. I focus on their families. I focus on a school that will never feel the same.

The kids who passed were not thinking about politics during this tragedy. Rather, they were wondering if they would make it out of a place they considered safe, alive.

This issue is much bigger than a political debate. It is about hate in our world, a lack of love and a disconnect between ourselves and others. It’s not about guns. It’s not about mental illness. It’s about much more.

Rather than pointing the finger, we can all equally share the blame.

When social media turns an issue into a political debate, it’s easy to forget that children aren’t thinking about politics when they see their teacher, coach or friend pass away in front of their eyes.

So please, do us all a favor and don’t use children's dead bodies as a reason to get into a heated Facebook fight. That only spreads the hate. It is counterproductive. Rather than plotting against each other, we need to band together.

Cover Image Credit: Pixbay

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4 reasons how Drake's New Album May Help Us Fight Mental Illness

Increasing Evidence Points to Music as a Potential Solution to the Mental Health Problem.

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Okay, You caught me!

I am NOT just talking about everybody's favorite actor-turned-rapper— or second, if you've seen Childish Gambino's "This is America" music video. Unfortunately, current research hasn't explored specific genres and artists. However, studies HAVE provided significant evidence in possibilities for music to treat mental health disorders. Now, before you say something that your parents would not be proud of, ask yourself if you can really blame me for wanting to get your attention. This is an urgent matter concerning each one of us. If we all face the truth, we could very well reach one step closer to solving one of society's biggest problems: Mental Health.

The Problem:

As our nation continues to bleed from tragedies like the horrific shooting that shattered the lives of 70 families whose loved ones just wanted to watch the "Dark Knight Rises" during its first hours of release, as well as the traumatic loss of seventeen misfortunate innocents to the complications of mental health disorders in the dear city of Parkland— a city mere hours from our very own community— it's impossible to deny the existence of mental illness. As many of us can already vouch, mental illness is much more common than what most would think: over 19 million adults in America suffer from a mental health disorder. Picture that: a population slightly less than that of Florida is plagued by hopelessness, isolation, and utter despair.

Disease in the form of depression holds millions of people prisoner, as anxieties instill crippling desperation and too many struggles with finding peace. This can be you. It could be your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your cousin, your aunt, your uncle, your friend, your roommate, your fraternity brother, your sorority sister, your lab partner, or just your classmate that sits in the corner of the lecture hall with a head buried into a notebook that camouflages all emotion.

I hope we— the UCF community— understand the gravity of the problem, but it's clear that some still see mental illness as a disease that affects only a handful of "misfits" who "terrorize" our streets, while the numbers reveal more to the issue. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental health disorder. The problem is so serious that suicide has risen to become the second-leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds. While many continue to ask for more antidepressants and even the occasional "proper spanking," recent studies indicate increases in occurrence, such as one in depression from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015. So, clearly, none of that is working.

The Evidence:

If we really want to create a world where our children are free from the chains of mental illness, we need to think outside the box. Doctors and scientists won't really talk about this since it's still a growing field of research, but music has strong potential. We don't have any options at the moment, which means we need to change our mindset about music and to continue to explore its medicinal benefits. If you're still skeptical because of the title, then please consider these 4 pieces of solid evidence backed by scientific research:

1. Music has been proven to improve disorders like Parkinson's Disease.

Researchers sponsored by the National Institute of Health— the country's largest research agency— saw an improvement in the daily function of patients with Parkinson's Disease. This makes patients shake uncontrollably, which often prevents them from complete functionality. The disease is caused by a shortage of dopamine— a chemical your neurons, or brain cells, release; since music treats this shortage, there's an obvious ability to increase dopamine levels. As numerous studies connect dopamine shortages to mental illnesses like depression, addiction, and ADHD, someone could possibly use music's proven ability to increase dopamine levels to treat said problems.

2. Listening to the music has the potential to activate your brain's "reward center."

In 2013, Valorie Salimpoor and fellow researchers conducted a study that connected subjects' pleasure towards music to a specific part of the brain. This key structure, the nucleus accumbens, is the body's "reward center," which means all of you have experienced its magical powers. In fact, any time the brain detects a rewarding sensation— drinking ice-cold water after a five-mile run in sunny, humid Florida, eating that Taco Bell chalupa after a long happy hour at Knight's Library, and even consuming recreational drugs— this structure releases more of that fantastic dopamine. So, with further research into specifics, doctors may soon be prescribing your daily dose of tunes for your own health.

3. Listening to Music may be more effective than prescription anti-anxiety medication.

In 2013, Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel J. Levitin— two accomplished doctors in psychology— reviewed a study wherein patients waiting to undergo surgery were given either anti-anxiety medications or music to listen to. The study took into account cortisol levels, which are used daily by healthcare professionals to gauge patient levels. This "stress hormone" was actually found to be lower in patients who listened to classical music rather those who took the recommended dose of prescription drugs. Sit there and think about that for a second: these patients actually felt more relaxed with something as simple as MUSIC than with chemicals that are made specifically to force patients into relaxation before surgery. Why pop a Xanax when you can just listen to Beethoven?

4. Music may release the chemicals that help you naturally relax and feel love.

Further studies continue to justify music's place in the medical world as results demonstrate increases in substances such as prolactin— a hormone that produces a relaxing sensation— as well as oxytocin— the substance that promotes warmth and happiness during a hug between mother and child. So this study basically showed us that music has the potential to actually make you feel the way you did when Mom or Dad would embrace you with the warmest hug you've ever felt.

The Future:

The evidence I present you with today is ultimately just a collection of individual situations where specific people found specific results. There are a lot of variables when it comes to any research study; therefore, data is never truly certain. We should take these findings as strong suggestions to a possible solution, but we must remember the possibility of failure in our search.

The neurochemistry behind the music and its medicinal properties is just beginning to unfold before the scientific community. In fact, extremely qualified scientists from the National Institute of Health— the organization that basically runs any important medical study in the United States— continue to remind us of the subject's youth with the constant use of "potential" behind any and all of their findings. Therefore, it's our responsibility as a community to look into this— not just that of the scientists at the National Institute of Health.

We're all surrounded by music. It's at the bars. It's in our ears during all-night sessions at the UCF library. It's keeping us awake through East Colonial traffic at 7:00 AM while hordes of students focus on their cell phone screens instead of the paved roads ahead. It's in the shoes we wear, the actions we take, and the words we say. IF YOU'RE READING THIS: it's accessible to you. So, don't be shy, and try to play with your Spotify account, or even just on YouTube, and gauge the power of music. As more and more of us see the light, we can promote the movement and carry on as more research comes out to support us.

Drop the bars, drop those addictive pills that destroy your body slowly, and pick up your headphones and press PLAY.

Just relax, close your eyes, smile, and live.

Cover Image Credit:

@champagnepapi

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The Pulse Affect

Where do we stand 2 years later?

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It's been 2 years since the infamous Pulse shooting and everyone, including myself, is still affected. I remember so clearly how I was too scared to go to any pride events afterward. I knew that's what the shooter wanted, was for us all to retreat back into the closest we so bravely came out of, but still, I couldn't bring myself to leave the bed.

The news had hit me harder than any of the previous shooting. While it was still a mass shooting such as what was happening at the schools, the target was more specific. He went in there with the mind of not just killing people, but people associated with the LGBT community. The scene was so horrible, that some of the first responders have even mentioned having PTSD still from the scene.

The news had sunk everyone's heart and many flocked to social media just to find out if friends were there or not. The toll was 49 innocent people who had lost their lives to a despicable individual I refuse to name. I feel he received too much attention in the media as it was.

It also didn't take long for the focus to switch from the victims to the "how could we prevent this"—which isn't a bad question, but the two sides who seemed to differ on opinions so much just turned it into yet another screaming match. That being said, those who weren't on the extreme end of it found themselves seeking comfort from each other. For many people, this attack did scare them, but I think within the horrifying event came a new sense of community.

For those who had family or friends that were victims of such an attack, my heart goes out to you. The mourning doesn't stop, and while I know there are no words that can be strung together to bring closure, I can show my support and continue to fight for equality and help educate whoever I can. The tragedy isn't something I wish on anyone, and the wound stills fresh to me despite not having any personal connections to anyone.

To end this story on a hopeful note, today people are doing positive things in honor of the victims of the pulse attack. One article writes about a couple who spends their time cleaning up the area of litter and mentions others donating money, objects, or their own time in hopes to help anyone in need. One direct quote from this article is "Last year, more than 2,500 people volunteered their time in support of Acts of Love and Kindness, and while there was no official tally yet for this year's outpouring, it seems likely that many will go uncounted."

I encourage people today to reach out to one another, no matter orientation or identity. Love one another and don't let things strip others of their human qualities. We are all human and have the ability to do good. The shooting was tragic, but we should not let it keep us from celebrating who we are and embracing each other with open arms. Don't let the worlds hate scare you or stifle your creativity. We will not let anyone push us back into the dark, no better their best effort. Live on and keep your heart open to love.

Cover Image Credit:


https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-gathered-near-building-holding-flag-at-daytime-919194/

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