Sandy Hook Shootings and Mental Health
by Leigh-Ann Renz, 6.5.13
For those of us in the mental & behavioral health industries, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings are more than just a horrific tragedy. They are a wake up call to the nation about the importance of getting mental health care to those who need it and raise a host of questions about current insurance coverage, laws and policies. As a worried mother of a son with similar tendencies to Adam Lanza’s relays: “the best option is to get [my son] charged with a crime, because ‘That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.’ It’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.”
According to the article, parents of troubled, volatile children are encouraged to have their kids charged with a crime in order to create a paper trail: “it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people.” According to a 2006 article by Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006: “More than half of all prison and state inmates now report mental health problems, including symptoms of major depression, mania and psychotic disorders.” The article reveals that the rate of reported mental health disorders in the state prison population is five times (56.2%) greater than that of the non-incarcerated population. “Prisons are woefully ill-equipped for their current role as the nation’s primary mental health facilities.” (Jamie Fellner, Director of U.S. Program of Human Rights Watch)
In addition to the examination of national justice policy, gun laws, and cultural awareness of mental illness treatment that Sandy Hook raises, you may be called upon in your practice to help your clients make sense of this multi-layered national tragedy. “As professionals we will be charged with having to help others make sense of an occurrence that in the immediate makes no sense. We will have to attempt to make children and adults feel safe when we cannot assure them of absolute safety. We will have to come up with a plan to address the emergent psychological needs of those directly and indirectly impacted by this event. We will have to assist in keeping people functional,” says Brad Lindell, Chairman at the National Center for Crisis Management.
His organization has shared multiple resource articles to assist mental health professionals in addressing the needs of their clients impacted by this event:
- Practical Suggestions for Assisting Children in the Aftermath of a Tragedy
- Teacher Guidelines for Crisis Response
- Parent Guidelines for Crisis Response
- How Do People Respond During Traumatic Exposure?
- Helpful Information During and After a Traumatic Event
Other articles that may provide support for this issue in your practice:
- Number of Mentally Ill in US Prisons Quadrupled
- Mom Says ‘I am Adam Lanza’s mother,’ details life with terrifying son
- How to Talk About School Shootings with Children
- Five Ways Children Overcome Tragedy
- Killer’s DNA won’t explain his crime
- After Newtown shootings, questions about mental health insurance coverage
We can only hope that the Sandy Hook shootings will cause our nation to take a closer, more serious look at the multiple issues is raises and that this examination will lead to a safer, healthier future for all Americans.