A critical need for mental health services and family supports

Since I am the blogger for the day, I feel it is important to recognize the awful event that happened on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty-six people were killed, 20 of them children. The shooter (apparently) killed himself, and he killed his mother earlier that day. This horrible act of violence directed at children has been at the forefront of my mind since Friday, making it difficult to concentrate on anything else. I can’t help but put myself in the murdered children’s parents’ shoes, being a parent of very young children myself. I want to pay my respects to the little children so brutally murdered, and to express my absolute sympathy and sorrow for the adults who cared for them, parents and teachers alike. I also wanted to pay my respects to the school officials who were killed during this violent rampage while protecting their charges.

At this juncture, I think we need to address the fact that any policy solution that may arise from such violence must be comprehensive and well thought-out, and that reactionary policy solutions must be avoided. I’ve seen all over my Facebook and Twitter news feeds policy solutions ranging from banning all guns to arming kindergarten teachers (WTF?!) to increasing access to mental health services. But what would the outcomes of such reactionary policies be?

I’m sure many of you have read the “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” article, in which a woman discusses her own experiences with her son who has an unidentified mental illness (MI) that can be quite terrifying at times for her and her other children. Despite the blogger’s seemingly good intentions, IMO this blog post also inadvertently increases the stigma associated with MI by implying that people with MI are inherently dangerous. (Read “You are not Adam Lanza’s mother” for an interesting response to that article.)

However, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” got me thinking, Is there a policy solution that would have prevented such an act of violence? I think there is, though I think it’s inappropriate to say that such a solution would be a catch-all for preventing such acts. It’s hard for me to ignore homicide-by-gun rate comparisons between the U.S. and countries with much stricter gun control laws than ours. I believe that a rework of current gun licensing and regulation laws must happen—it’s simply far too easy to get a gun in this country.

But it’s not enough to simply strengthen laws related to gun acquisition and use. It’s just as important to ensure that those with MI and developmental disabilities (DD) are able to access services needed for their well-being, and that their families have access to support services in order to promote overall family and subsequently community well-being. The “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” article clearly speaks to this, as does this article detailing the child welfare experiences of a mother of twin daughters with significant disabilities.

A policy approach that considers both gun control and service acquisition is imperative. One that considers arming kindergarten teachers is not. That is simply ludicrous.

One thought on “A critical need for mental health services and family supports

  1. Pingback: What’s Coming Up in 2013 | University of Minnesota Women's Center Blog

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