Yesterday, I posted my column about the December 14th school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Today, I’m honored to bring you a guest post from my own mother, who had her own thoughts and offered to share them here. Some of our thoughts (not surprisingly) overlap, but she adds her own perspective as a mental health professional.
We Must Not Forget
I am Mombian’s Mom and I am blogless. Dana has kindly offered me space to share some of the thoughts and questions I’ve had in the days since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Like many others I felt helpless. I wanted to do more than send expressions of sympathy to those directly affected. I rued the short memory we have had for similar events. I concluded that first and foremost I must remember.
Sadly, there is nothing that will totally prevent such happenings. We hear that there is no one-size-fits all profile of those who commit these crimes. In looking to minimize the likelihood of future shootings, we have opened a Pandora’s box of complex, overlapping issues, gun control, mental health, insurance to name just a few.’
I am most familiar with the mental health system, having worked in a psychiatric hospital for many years. Driven by insurance companies, in-patient stays have become shorter, more crisis oriented. Budgets for staffing are cut and we rely more heavily on medication than on therapy. Time with a therapist is shorter as the counselor’s time is taken up trying to make discharge plans. At the same time, the “current” thinking has been to close long-term facilities and return people to their communities. One result is fewer options for aftercare for those who need it. Some clients are discharged to shelters which require them to be out of the shelter during the day. Insurance also determines whether people will be covered for the medication that has stabilized them.
Most people with emotional problems are not a danger to others. However, for those who might be, the present system is lacking. Add the availability of guns, and the mix can become volatile.
I must not let the enormity of the task of preventing another tragedy like that at Sandy Hook cause me to turn away and forget. I must remember that minimizing potential disaster is worthy. I do this when I have my car’s tires checked, when I install smoke alarms in my home. It is at least equally important when the effort reduces the number of people murdered.
In an effort to return to normalcy, we let terrible events fade quickly, only to be reminded of them when the next one occurs. Sandy Hook may have long-lasting effects, not only on those directly involved, but on countless children and adults who carry fear into their days.
I am not helpless. We are not helpless. Those who can make the needed changes probably will not do so unless we pressure them to do so. In our homes, communities, workplaces, and voting booths we can find ways to make a difference. We can keep the pressure on. We can only do so if we do not forget.