I’ve kept awfully quiet about the horrific shooting that took place in Connecticut last week. I’ve kept myself hidden from the news and tried to not think about it. Of course, if you own a Facebook or a Twitter, which I own both, it is nearly impossible to stay away from it. However, here’s my stance on the subject.
Just as I’ve stated so many times over and over again, mental health should be the big topic here. Yes, there are some gun control issues that should be addressed but honestly I question the family, friends and people around the twenty year old who should have, and probably saw his mental health issues. I instantly pick up on my family members and friends problems. I also pay attention to people around me on a constant basis. Why can’t everyone do that?
The answer is simple. People just don’t. It is easier to ignore the elephant standing in the middle of the room rather than asking it to sit down on the couch and talk. It is easier to say “well maybe tomorrow they’ll feel better.” We ignore the feelings of others and we treat mental illness, still, as a taboo subject. This has got to change.
In early 2011 I wrote a small paper on prevention sciences and using it towards addressing mental health in school children. Here is an excerpt from that paper:
Another way to teach the importance of mental health awareness is through prevention science. Prevention science is a way to promote global health issues through preventative research. This is associated with a study done by the University of Missouri. The team studied this tactic by “using prevention science to address mental health issues in schools” (Stormont, Reinke & Herman, 2010). In their study they found that prevention was the key to a drop in the amount of mental health claims and issues. The ideal way to do this is to concentrate on the target audience of this information. The first goal is to determine the need for information in the schools. If a school psychologist could address issues of mental health inside the classroom, they would need to know the dynamic of the area first. Is this an area where the majority of the parents are unemployed or do the majority of the students live in single parent homes? Does the area have a high suicide rate amongst teens or even adults? To assess this information, the person in charge of the initiative or program would need to research the needs first to make an accurate assessment. “Preventative interventions can involve direct contact between provider and client such as individual or group counseling or less direct contact as occurs through media campaigns, system change, or public policies” (Stormont, Reinke & Herman, 2010).
This is just the first steps towards preventative care for those affected by mental health. After teaching students at a younger age that mental health is just as important as physical health, we need to expand more into the community. Programs like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has worked to find ways that the media can portray issues like depression and suicide in a way that could prevent the “copy cat” trend. They found this to be an issue after the media portrays or “glorifies” suicide amongst the population (AFSP, 2011). They are issuing pamphlets and press releases that teach the media how to handle reporting these types of issues by using the correct wording instead of making the person who committed suicide look like a “hero.”
The biggest point in all this is that we as a society need to pay more attention to those around us. We need to show more compassion. We need to find a way to help those who refuse to ask for help and we need to teach children that our mental wellness is just as important as our physical well being. We are still, to this day, pushing mental health under the rug and refusing to talk about it. Everyone is so concentrated on gun control that they can’t see the bigger picture.
I charge each and every one of you to sit down tonight and think about your own mental health. Are you feeling a little sad, depressed, angry or too happy? Are things just not going right? Have you noticed changes in your friends or family member’s behavior the past couple of days? Have you talked to your kids about mental health and how to come to you if they are feeling off?
These are all very important questions to ask yourself and your friends and family members. Take care of your mental state and also help others out who need it too.
If you or a loved one have considered suicide or are having a tough time dealing not only with the events that happened last week or just need someone to talk to about it, the suicide prevention hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. A great group of volunteers work these lines and they are always there if you need them.
AFSP: For the Media. (2011) AFSP: Understanding and Preventing Suicide through Research, Education and Advocacy. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2011. http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?page_id=0523D365-A314-431E-A925C03E13E762B1
Stormont, M., Reinke, W. M., & Herman, K. C. (2010). Introduction to the special issue: Using prevention science to address mental health issues in schools. Psychology in the Schools, 47(1), 1-4. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.