I have been obsessively Googling ‘school shootings’ since the deadly shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California yesterday. The statistics are horrific, the fear of recurrence, even worse.
As the mother of an angel in Heaven, and a school-aged son on Earth, I cannot comprehend the loss of any child victimized by gun violence. It’s senseless. It’s maddening. It’s preventable.
I rarely have a political bias when I write about my angel, but this cause needs great attention.
Something has to be done about gun violence, and greater attention needs paid to the mental health of our children.
Not only are children dying as the result of gun violence, but those lives spared, those children who witness these crimes and watch their classmates perish, are prone to subsequent thoughts or attempts at suicide in the aftermath of the trauma.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the second leading cause of death in 10 to 34 year olds. Yes, ten-year-old children are taking their own lives.
How do we save these children? These children who resort to violence, witness tragedy, or consider suicide?
We start with mental health education. We start by telling our children, and ourselves, that it is not only ok, but it is encouraged to seek help. Therapists, counselors, and all mental health professionals are available, and should be used, as a resource when life just feels too hard.
As a grieving mother trying to make sense of tragedy, I am a huge advocate of seeking mental health resources.
Not everyone close to me knows this, but I began seeing a therapist at age 17 at the urging of my parents, and have been prescribed anti-depressants since age 18. Half of my life – my entire adult existence – I have taken medication to treat depression.
I am not ashamed. I am saddened to share that at one point in my life, when I was a teenager, I contemplated suicide. I am proud to say that thankfully my parents recognized my pain, and helped me find productive ways to feel better about myself and my future.
Our children need our help. Many of them, including my son, do not always have the tools to control and understand their emotions.
They need love. A lot of it.
And they need a supportive network to encourage them to speak, to share, and to have a voice of their own.
Their voices can change the state of this nation. We need to make sure they are heard.
For more information on suicide prevention, please visit AFSP.