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Addressing Mental Health

Mass violence

There have been too many mass shooting in the year of 2019. That's not even counting the ones that were on the news for weeks: Sandy Hook, Columbine, etc. So where does society go from here?

The mass shooting that have taken place in 2019 that the media considers "high profile" have all been perpetrated by males from the ages of 19-24. Some research suggests that these individuals are still adolescents. The talking points that came out of these shootings are usually more gun control, more education for mental health, and less violent video games. However, these messages have been shared so much that society might be becoming numb. 

So, what if the government decided to fund mental health education to prevent further violence? For starters, there should be increased funding allotted for those who experience psychotic episodes along with signs of violence who go untreated. While most people with mental health problems ARE NOT VIOLENT and are more likely to be the victims, there is still/are still some individuals that need treatment to enhance public safety. However, not all violent actions are because of mental illness. Some violent actions are motivated by hatred and toxic communities/people. We need to learn the difference. 

Unfortunately, for every one person with a clinical diagnosis, there are two more who are vulnerable because of lack of support or lack of knowledge on how to get help. So, how do we change the odds?

One way is to start addressing the idea of mental health at a young age. Kids see the dentist BEFORE their teeth start to rot and kids are given vaccinations BEFORE they get diseases. If mental health is addressed BEFORE issues start happening the better off the kids will be. The kid will more likely develop more positive coping skills and develop a positive support system before they turn to violence. 

School is the perfect place to implement the discussion of mental health. A child USUALLY stays at the same school for several years. Since they are learning about mental health early in their development, they can create a safe place to discuss issues and can receive positive support from the educator and their peers.  

If a child does not feel that they have a strong bond with adults, they are more likely to not discuss issues and will probably be less open to discussing mental health. Each child is different and each child has different needs. It is important to recognize that when discussing mental health. For example, you would not treat a child who has anxiety the same way you treat a child with violent tendencies. While some of the coping skills might be the same, the approach with each child will be different.

A proactive mental health education system in schools should create positive relationships, promote healthy behavior, and highlight children's strengths to improve their well being and their academic success. It should also allow teachers and counselors to create additional resources for children who show early signs of problems, especially aggressive behaviors, who have strengths and resilience that can be further developed.  

By focusing on those aspects, schools can address not only the issues of child who has violent behavior and may continue to act on it, but they can also increase the resilience of the whole school.

Unfortunately, this proactive approach will not prevent every violent act and all mental illness. Society needs to put in more effort to address the glorification of violence, toxic communities that normalize hatred, and easy access to high-velocity weapons.

However, taking a health-focused and preventable approach that starts in the early years of school could prevent violent behavior later in life and lessen the suffering caused by mental health problems. Society has a lot of the information available, we just have to put it into practice. 

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