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Who Pulls the Trigger?


In the light of the recent shooting in Oregon, I wanted to continue my last article which discussed the importance of mental health education for our youth. Its become clear that the issue of gun control in our country will not be rectified or monitored adequately any time soon. Ultimately, its not about the guns but the people owning/managing them. I believe that if we focus our attention on the populace we can begin to see changes in senseless shootings.

I wrote previously, the need for mental health reform in our educational system especially in the public school setting. I really cannot call it reform since there is basically nothing established as of now as mandated curriculum for any mental health courses. It boggles my mind that our youth of today are not taught in a structured format about the human condition and how we react emotionally to our environment. I am not talking about rocket science, I am talking about the affect people go through when dealing with loss (death, break up, or abandonment) or understanding when you are dealing with stress or if its anxiety (which most people have no idea). There are so many more examples that are key to our development and should be common practices in our educational system. 

The one thing that is always glaring to me when I hear about mass shootings is the assailants history of possible mental health issues. Most commonly, its the years of not being treated/supported for their mental ailments. In many cases, the assailant has planned out the possible attacks over a long period of time. They are withdrawn from society and isolated with their mental health issue which magnifies with time since the individual doesn't have access or knows the proper tools to manage their distress. At some point the emotional distraught meets a threshold and something has to give. In many cases, individuals will take their own lives or be hospitalized (5150) and in some rare incidents someone will take the lives of others due to this fractured emotional stance. 

I have seen mental illness at all levels and it has always amazed me that regardless of their condition, an individual can overcome and manage if they have an outlet and support. I have worked at high schools (specialized private behavioral schools) where the emotional disturbance of the students is so over the top and scary at times yet ultimately is healthy for the individuals. I have worked as a therapist and principal in these settings, and the one certainty I have learned is that each student will have a form to get their needs met. Sometimes their way of getting this done is quite convoluted (yelling profanities, fighting, hurting self, using drugs, and etc.) but regardless of their maladaptive ways of getting their needs met they will be heard in this setting. An individual is not left isolated or alone. Through counseling and emotional education in these settings, an individual can develop healthy ways to get their needs met in life. These kids/students are on the extreme side of emotional outbursts which in many ways gets them the financial support to attend private behavioral schools. Even though these kids are labeled as emotionally disturbed and judged accordingly, they are not the ones who have been associated to the mass shootings. Why are these individuals not assailants? 

Clearly the mental health support and education in these private settings has made a difference. The correlation is black and white. Mental health support and education equates to individual development. I wonder then, why do we neglect and find it hard to support the mental health needs of kids who exhibit them at a nominal rate? I understand that it is hard to support all students yet providing an education is the first step. Is it so hard to develop a class that discusses and explores what a support system is and how to access/use tools to manage overwhelming feelings? The picture we are painting is a reactive vs. proactive society and education. When does our country come together and look at the big picture. It is not a gun that pulls the trigger.

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