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The Responsibility Factor

Mental healthcare and school violence.

How clear does it have to be?

We’re all aware of the horror at the Sandy Hook elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that took the lives of 20 children and six adults. Shortly after, we were stunned by more killings, including a child murdering his parents and younger siblings. And, if that wasn’t enough, these recent events were followed by a 7 year old who entered his school with a deadly pistol and live ammunition.

Isn’t it time we cease the rhetoric and begin taking precautionary measures to avoid such insanity? Do we attempt to protect our schoolchildren by placing armed guards in every school, as the NRA has suggested? Do we place more armed guards to prevent a mentally ill person from going on a rampage at a movie theater or a mall? How about placing more armed guards in everyone’s home to protect every household? Or do we fix the mental healthcare system? But who is responsible? Is the government, the education system, parents, doctors or clergyman to blame?

Easy access to mental healthcare should be a priority, not a cutback. Preventative screening and early intervention for our children’s mental health may have helped prevent these horrific events. The National Alliance on Mental Illness informs us that one in 17 people have some form of mental illness. Further, one in 10 children have some sort of mental illness.

Since Virginia Tech, five years ago, there have been 14 shootings and counting. Ironically, state and federal funds for mental health services continue to be cut. It is time to address the mental healthcare system and stop cutting back on programs and funding. If we help people reach their potential-- psychologically, educationally, physically-- and explore all their options for safety, we might avoid some of this violence while creating a safe environment for our children and grandchildren. It’s time we raise awareness and funding for school-based, mental-health programs.

Let’s get real. Who is getting their hands on these guns and using them on innocent victims? A rational, mentally stable person?

Today, schools are lucky if they have even one social worker and psychologist for each district. Obviously, this is unacceptable as we see more and more children falling through the cracks. We need to reexamine and research early detection of mental illness. If we can’t afford an early detection team in every school, maybe we can mandate that every physician have a mental assessment form for adults and children during yearly exams? Maybe there could there be a mobile crisis unit and team in every town along with the EMS?

Every school district should have funding to support and educate households about mental well-being, including signs and symptoms of mental illness and access to support services that are readily available within each community. The young man from Newtown should not have fallen through the cracks. Along with his mother, he should have had access to mental healthcare services. (Why did she have all those guns in her home?) Saying that someone, such as this young man, is on the spectrum and could have been predisposed to such violence is ludicrous. Where were the support services he and his mother desperately required? Why didn’t the school administration, relatives or neighbors contact a mandated reporter if they suspected something was wrong and needed to be explored?

Why are we not mandating state instant background checks for guns? Maybe it should be mandatory or your state loses federal funding. Weapons need to be under stricter guidelines. Some are suggesting armed guards and weapon checks at schools since many believe schools are no longer safe.

Our society is in a heightened state of anxiety, and everyone is afraid to examine this. The nation’s healthcare system does not work! It is truly time to reevaluate it, and apply funding that is much needed. Children and adults who need mental health services should not be afraid to ask for help. People should be able to support family and friends through access to mental health services. Mental health should not be feared. It should be embraced.

If people suffer from some form of mental illness, and do not get the appropriate care, we all will be living in a bad mental state and possibly a world filled with violence and unnecessary fear. Our healthcare system is broken, and the time to fix it is now. Government funding is needed before there is another Newtown, Columbine, Aurora movie theater, Virginia Tech or 7-year-old gunslinger endangering your family.

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