Cameron Kasky talks mental health, gun violence and activism

“You can’t save the whole world if you’re not taking care of yourself,” he said.


Photo by Lilah Kimble

Tanajia Moye-Green and Elizabeth Bell

“I do not think that gun control is number one on the list of things to look for in this election cycle,” said Cameron Kasky in his speech during session 3 of Mock Convention. “I think that gun violence is a problem with such a simple answer and yet we’re just not doing anything.”

Kasky is a survivor of the deadliest high school shooting in United States. Just two years and a day ago, 17 of his classmates were killed and 17 more were injured in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

In response to the shooting, Kasky and several of his classmates founded the #NeverAgain gun control movement and the March for Our Lives.

After his speech, Kasky tweeted: “Today at Washington and Lee University’s Mock Convention, I was privileged enough to have the opportunity to remind an energized, organized and engaged group of student leaders that if Bloomberg gets the nomination, our country is choosing between two racist, sexist billionaires.”

Kasky said that politicians’ inaction on gun control is a major reflection of where America currently stands politically.

Before the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Kasky said he was unable to really understand the severity of guns because his family used to have them when he was growing up.

“I thought that the world just looked like Parkland, Florida,” he said.

It was not until after the shooting that he realized there were issues manifesting because of the current gun legislation and these issues are able to impact different groups differently. He said he was unable to understand the gun violence that pervades places like Chicago and Baltimore.

“Cameron did a really good job of communicating a youthful perspective of being someone that was a victim of a mass shooting,” said Katharine Agbenohevi, ‘1L. He contextualized “being engaged on a more accessible level.”

Kasky discussed his mental health struggles since the shooting, and the mental health challenges that college students face.

“You can’t save the whole world if you’re not taking care of yourself,” he said.

From his experiences with suicidal ideation and dealing with the mania and depression that can accompany bipolar disorder, Kasky emphasized that people must focus on themselves and take care of those immediate persons around them, before attempting to save others.

Meredith Denby, ’22 was impressed by Kasky’s willingness to vulnerably speak on his mental health because “a lot of students deal with [anxiety and depression]”.

At the end of his speech, Kasky delivered a final call to action. He emphasized the importance of this upcoming election because electing Trump is one thing, but reelecting him would be “the sloppiest seconds I’ve ever heard of.”

He reminded the audience that simply being unaffected by certain issues is not a reason to disvalue those issues when choosing who to elect, rather we should strive to “think about the people who don’t necessarily get to see their voice represented” because “not everybody gets to vote in big numbers.”

In mentioning this, Kasky specifically mentions how people of color might have felt after Pete Buttigieg—a man known for his controversial remarks concerning people of color—was nominated by the Iowa Caucus, the caucus commonly associated with setting the mood for the rest of the presidential cycle.

However, Kasky acknowledged that people cannot simply “become jaded or cynical just because this isn’t fun or good anymore”.

People must remain informed on the issues affecting people and continue to vote regardless because “this election cycle is not going to be fun—but it’s not about having fun, it’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s about everybody.”

After the session, multiple students had glowing reviews for Kasky’s ability to communicate his complex beliefs in a way that was funny and easy-to-digest, despite the fact that his beliefs originate from an unimaginable tragedy.