During difficult times, we must work to maintain our recovery. How do we balance our own needs with the need to get involved as advocates for change? I’ve been thinking hard about this issue for several days.
My brother-in-law is the principal of an elementary school that feeds into Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School, the Parkland, Florida, school where 17 people were murdered last week in a school shooting. He lost five of his former students and two adults who had previously worked at his school. At one of the memorial services, he looked up and saw a photo of himself with the victim on the day he had completed fifth grade. The boy’s face was full of excitement at moving on to a new phase of his life—a life tragically cut short.
The victims’ families and the survivors of the shooting don’t want our sympathy. They don’t want flowers, stuffed animals, or meals. They want more people to get involved in preventing school violence. Already, they are marching; they are organizing student walk-outs across the United States; and they are demanding change. Mass shootings appear to be a uniquely American problem, but unfortunately school violence is an international problem.
For many of us, the question is how we can get involved in preventing school violence while maintaining our recovery and wellness. Getting involved in advocacy, depending on how we do it, can expose us to stressors like crowds, insults, and rejection of our ideas. Even thinking too much about such a troubling issue can be stressful and can wear us down if we’re not careful.
However, if we find a way to get involved in advocacy—whether it’s school violence or another issue that we care about deeply—it can promote recovery. WRAP for Life has a section about self-advocacy that makes this point. In the words of one advocate, “Empowerment and recovery start from the inside when you begin to take charge of all aspects of your life. People must always remember that there is hope.”
There are many ways to be an advocate that avoid some of the stressors often associated with advocacy. Some of the survivors of the recent shooting are choosing to organize, rally, and march, and there are many other options for advocacy. Rather than speaking at a rally, you could help make signs. Rather than waging a war of words in the comments section of a news website, you could write an email to the editorial board. The World Health Organization offers a variety of tools and resources for violence and injury prevention that may be helpful in supporting advocacy and wellness.
If you have other suggestions for how people can balance getting involved in advocacy while maintaining recovery, please share them with the WRAP community. We are a diverse group with much to offer, and each of us can help make the world a better place.
Alan Marzilli, J.D., M.A., is a senior writer/program associate at Advocates for Human Potential (AHP). His work focuses primarily on homelessness, mental health and substance use disorder services, cannabis regulation, and employment services.