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Four Steps For Safer Communities

December 21, 2012  |  By Heidi Romans Nelson, CEO, Duffy Health Center

Reflecting on the Newtown, CT, school shooting this week - how do we make sense of it? The sadness of it is so overwhelming it’s not really possible to make sense of it, except to think about what we can do to prevent future occurrences. 

In my opinion, there are four things we need to do:

Keep our kids safe in school. Many children’s lives were saved because there were procedures in place, and the procedures were practiced. 

Improve the mental health services infrastructure, especially for young adults. Due to our current economic downturn, state budgets have suffered and mental health services have been cut. The federal government can help by ensuring that mental health services are adequately funded, and that services in particular should be developed to focus on students in high school, college and community college. 

Educate and empower the community to respond. There is a national movement called ‘mental health first aid,’ that helps communities understand mental illnesses, seek timely intervention, and save lives. There is a youth version of this program that provides a forum for informing the community about mental illness among young people, and shows neighbors, teachers, parents and caring citizens how to help a child or teen who is experiencing a mental health or substance abuse problem. Whatever the mechanism, we should follow the principle ‘if you see something, say something.’ 

Stop the legal sale of automatic weapons. No one should be able to pull the trigger once and kill one hundred people, unless they are in the middle of a war. One could even argue about this…