The multiple murders at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newton, Connecticut has sparked a wave of dialogue about solutions to prevent future deaths in schools. Even the National Rifle Association appears willing to join in the conversation.
I too, have thoughts I would like to share;
From the outset, media reports listed 26 deaths in Newtown. There were actually 27 - the gunman, Adam Lanza killed himself after murdering his last victim. I understand the natural outrage and hatred of an individual who could commit such a horrible crime as murdering innocent children and teachers, but let’s not discount his death.
We may never know Lanza’s motives. He murdered his mother then traveled to Sandy Hook school where his mother volunteered to murder the children she worked with. Perhaps his plan was to murder his mother while she was at the school but didn’t get the chance. Perhaps he not only wanted to murder her, but to destroy the school she loved. That knowledge died with Lanza.
But what I’m not buying into is the random media speculation that it was because he may have fallen somewhere on the Autism Spectrum; or that he played too many violent video games; or the latest: That he worshipped the devil. All of that is fear-mongering and those members of the media perpetuating it should be ashamed of themselves.
What we can believe is that Adam Lanza had some very serious mental health issues. Try to imagine what level of distress could cause you to do what Lanza did. How much emotional pain would you have to experience before you decided to not only kill yourself violently, but also murder a family member and over two dozen others? I think that the one thing we can believe is that Lanza was in a living hell when he decided the only way out was murder and suicide.
We’ll never know the root cause, but what do we do now?
Here’s what I think;
For the last decade in both Canada and the United States, we have elected parties and individuals who promised lower taxes to promote financial growth. Not sure if you’ve noticed or not - It isn’t working. But what it is doing is causing financial support for social programs to be cut to the bone and disenfranchising the most vulnerable members of our society, including children and the mentally ill.
We need to alter our priorities, and yes - it will cost us tax dollars. Maybe we can offset that by no longer being the self-appointed world police and get out of foreign wars and reducing our military spending. Yes those countries have some serious problems, and so do we. How about we put our own house in order first?
I believe that next we have to finally have the conviction to address America’s sacred cow; Gun control DOES reduce gun violence as evidenced by statistics gathered by the United Nations and World Health Organization on homicides by country;
- United States with little gun control: 1.2 homicides per 100,000
- Canada with some gun control: 0.76 homicides per 100,000
- United Kingdom with strict gun control: 0.04 homicides per 100,000
Next, I call on my fellow mental health professionals to speak in a united voice to dispel the stigma surrounding mental health issues. We need to be vocal and actively seek opportunities to normalize mental health issues in the media. In Canada, one in five people struggle with a diagnosable mental disorder, but fewer than 20% of those seek help.
We need to begin a movement toward including mental health care as part of our universal healthcare system and extended benefit plans. As one of my clients said; “We spend more on shoes than we do on our mental health.”
We also, as a society, need to be willing to fund preventative programs such as Roots Of Empathy in elementary schools - www.rootsofempathy.org/. It works [ask Dr. Bruce Perry of the Child Trauma Academy], and ironically it was one of the first mental health programs cut in our local elementary schools.
We need to address bullying in a meaningful way - not just in schools, but in the home and in the community. Our little town is; www.bullyfreesummerland.com/ and it is leading the way in British Columbia by being the first town whose Municipal Council officially supports the movement.
I’m sure there are other wonderful ideas out there that are evidenced-based and I’d love to hear about them.
But for now, the above is my contribution to the dialogue, and I know it won’t be popular amongst the pro-business, anti-taxation crowd. Yes, these things will cost tax dollars, but can anyone tell me the value of each life lost in Newtown last week?
How deep would you dig into your pocket if you could bring them back?
Aaron D. McClelland, RPC - www.interiorcounselling.com/aaron