Nadia Jeelani: Why I decided to wear orange

Lately, I have been seeing mental illness used as an excuse as for why people misuse guns. Mental illness is like black ice. You don’t recognize it until it occurs in your path. We put salt down on the roads to prevent black ice. If we don’t put salt down on the roads, accidents could increase. The same thing applies with guns.

We need to put stricter gun laws in place to prevent shootings from happening. Our problem is not only because of mental illness. Our government and our society do not even shed enough light on mental illness for there to be any awareness.

Not only do we not shed enough light on it, mental illness can also be unpredictable or unrecognizable by other people.

If a stranger met me, they would not know I have anxiety and depression.

We can’t put the full responsibility on people to look out for the ones who have a mental illness. We also need to stop putting this negative tone on mental illness.

Mental illness is not just “crazy” people who shoot up schools. Mental illness can range from depression to dementia to schizophrenia. People can break, people can snap, but mental illness is not something that is always harmful to others. Mental illness is an unfortunate illness just like any other illness. A brain tumor can make someone act erratically. We need more awareness of mental illness, we need to stop making mental illness a scapegoat, and we need stricter gun laws as our salt on the roads.

If we don’t put gun laws or restrictions in place for safety, then these shootings will keep on occurring. With barely any gun violence awareness, I joined many Americans as we wore orange on June 1st-3rd. June 1st-3rd was Wear Orange weekend.

Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in Chicago just one week after performing at President Obama’s inaugural parade in 2013. She was only 15 years old. Hadiya`s friends wore orange in honor of her when she was killed. Orange has been the color of the gun violence prevention movement ever since her friends wore it.

They picked the color orange as it is often used as the color of safety. Many Americans lives are cut short due to gun violence every single day. There are situations that range from a drive-by shooting, a domestic dispute, or even in a school. One life lost by gun violence is one too many.

With school shootings happening more often than not, I fear for even my own life. I join many high schoolers who mourn over the lives lost inside schools where we are supposed to be safe.

We wear orange for all those who have lost their lives to gun violence and all those who fear to lose their life due to gun violence.

Jeelani is an upcoming senior at Williamsburg High School and a Parliamentarian of Clermont County Young Democrats.