A Letter to Fellow Gauchos

What happened to our community is unfathomable.

My intention behind this letter is to be proactive, and to examine one of the larger issues behind this horrific tragedy. I write this letter with a sad and heavy heart, but also with hope that this will be the LAST time a rampage such as this occurs anywhere, causing so many to suffer. I hope that this letter will be well-received, because ultimately blame and reactionary comments do nothing to ease the pain we all feel right now. What we can do in this moment is recover, rebuild and work together to make very necessary changes in our society.

Dear Fellow Gauchos:

My name is Sarah, a UCSB alumna and lifelong Gaucho, and my heart is broken. My heart aches for all who have been affected by this recent tragedy, in a college town I called my own home for four years. But, my heart breaks over and over again for Elliot’s family, too.

This family clearly tried to get the attention of authorities in attempt to get their son help. They got in their car and tried to drive up to Santa Barbara after reading his disturbing manifesto, but they were too late. They were too late because the mental healthcare system is broken.

In case my comments have vexed any of you, let me explain: I unfortunately can speak from personal experience, because my brother currently suffers from schizoaffective disorder. He battles the demons inside his head every day; he is delusional and lost. He has been discharged from psychiatric facilities numerous times by judges that deem him not to be a danger to himself and others, nor gravely disabled, after the required 72-hour or 5150 hold. Before he can successfully start to adjust to any medication, he is released without any support system in place. Why? Because no system exists. My brother, like so many others, simply goes through a revolving door. In and out of an acute psychiatric facility with a meager 12-15 beds in the locked unit. And that’s if an open bed even exists. My brother also knows how to appear in front of authority figures, and as a result he slips through the cracks. There are cracks because the mental health system in our country has major flaws — flaws that I hope have become so blaringly apparent that we can no longer ignore them. These flaws led to seven deaths in Isla Vista with many more injured — both physically and emotionally.

This is not simply a discussion of “better gun control” or “nice guy mentality gone wrong;” this is much bigger than that. While those discussions are important, they only scratch the surface of what really needs to be examined right here, right now.

I have lost track of the number of shootings in recent years with weapons brandished by delusional males in their twenties, who have escaped any sort of mental health treatment. The pattern is sickeningly clear: no proper preventative channels exist in today’s mental healthcare system. This must end now. Too many lives, young and old, have been prematurely taken. Too many families have suffered. To reference the words of Chris Martinez’s father: not one more.

I speak out now on behalf of my family, and all other families who currently deal with the burden of loved ones who are mentally ill. I also speak out for my Gauchos, who I hope can continue to band together in this time of sorrow and pain. I stand with you; I stand with all of you.

Sarah is a UCSB alumna.

This is a  Daily Nexus online exclusive.
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