Aside from the obvious need for gun control, we need to reexamine our mental health system. Right now there are simply not enough resources. We need affordable and accessible preventative services which can support families experiencing difficult times and excessive stress.
Over the years, I have sat with many families who are stretched beyond their limit. I’ve wondered how they carry on and have admired their fortitude. I’ve seen the self sacrifice of parents, the strain on siblings and families’ overall distress. I also know how much better things could have been if they had early and consistent support and resources. My wish would be a system of early detection and regular monitoring so that children and families get the care they need.
How about mini mental health clinics located in schools? Schools are part of our collective community and could be a great place to detect early signs of emotional disturbance. Schools already are alert to signs of learning challenges or developmental delays. Teachers, who have many hours with our children, can provide vital information about how they are doing emotionally as well educationally. Of course, teachers already do some of this, but they don’t have the backup resources that would professionally assess and then act on their concerns.
These resources could be especially important for families who struggle with a child who is prone to violence. There are currently few adequate programs providing this kind of support. Families are either faced with a public psychiatric admission, which is usually traumatic and short term, or a private psychiatric hospital, often prohibitively expensive; or the option of arrest and becoming part of the juvenile justice system. These current options are limited or inadequate. Certainly we could create an infrastructure of more effective community based programs that would provide safely for family members and society in general.
Read the heartfelt blog by Liza Long in the Blue Review. Liza is a mother who struggles with a child who at times can be loving, but then violent and out of control. She gives us a window into what it’s like to live with a child who has episodes of explosive rage, and asks for help for all parents in similar situations. These families need real on-going support and reliable resources if we are to avert these tragedies in the future. Schools would be a great place to add resources.
Listen to a radio interview with a law enforcement officer, a psychiatrist and a director of psychiatric emergency services.
And lastly, an article by Paul Steinberg who argues that we are not adequately assessing or treating individuals with clear signs of psychosis.x