The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School has left us with broken hearts and a new resolve to talk about gun control and the pressing need to increase the availability of mental health services. We may never know what prompted a young man to tragically take 27 lives, including those of innocent children who had yet to reach their eighth birthday.
But what we do know is this: that improved gun laws and access to mental health services are crucial to preventing such unspeakable tragedies from recurring. As national mental health experts have long noted, the lack of community-based mental health services is acute and getting worse.
The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a Washington, D.C. advocate for people with mental disabilities, has framed the issue like this:
"While community mental health programs can offer excellent, comprehensive services, lack of resources has resulted in these services often not being available, except to people who are in immediate crisis, and who have already endured multiple hospitalizations."
We know that reality all too well in Illinois, where cuts to community mental health have ranked among the nation's highest, increasingly putting our most vulnerable adults and children at risk. The cumulative effects of these cuts to even the most essential programs and services result in corresponding unnecessary suffering coupled with a longer term financial burden on state resources. Untimely cuts in mental health and supports result in higher costs to other systems, including criminal justice and hospitals.
Because C4 is a trauma-informed agency we realize that understanding how trauma and violence impact the lives of children and adults is vital to their recovery. Dr. Johnny Williamson, C4's Medical Director, has worked extensively with children who have experienced trauma. He was recently interviewed in a Chicago Tribune article that included advice on how to talk to children about the Connecticut tragedy.
Talking to Kids About Trauma
"As a parent, the most important thing you can do is to encourage discussion," Dr. Williamson said.
As people committed to preventing community violence, across the nation and in our own backyard, we must make sure there is help for people who want and need care. The article below from the National Council for Behavioral Health has some excellent advice for getting involved.
What We Need Now is Action
Taking action in the three areas outlined by the National Council: stopping cuts to mental health services; increasing the system's capacity to provide needed care; and equipping our communities to recognize and connect people to services are some of the best ways to honor the memory of those schoolchildren and teachers who lost their lives to senseless violence in a Connecticut school.
President & CEO