The tragic shooting that occurred at a high school in Parkland Florida on February 14th is another wake-up call for all of us; we need to pay more attention to our fellow citizens (young and old) who show signs of struggling with mental health issues. That day, a 19-year-old former student of the school went on a shooting rampage, taking the lives of 17 people that included young students and faculty. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this senseless shooting and to the survivors who will undoubtedly carry the burden of this tragedy in their minds for the rest of their lives.
As details of this shooting continue to unfold, we are bombarded by harmful messages that paint individuals with mental illness as dangerous and evil. It is a sad commentary on the nature of the public interest. It’s estimated that 1% of individuals in the U.S. with an untreated mental illness who commit acts of violence garners significant media coverage but violence against those suffering from mental illness is much higher (approximately 25%) and garners considerably fewer headlines. (Source: Treatment Advocacy Center.)
So many children do not receive the help they need, and as the National Alliance on Mental Health reports, approximately 1 in 5 youths aged 13-18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their lives. Of the youth, less than one quarter will be able to access services for a variety of reasons, lack of knowledge, lack of family support, and the big one — fear of becoming an outcast within their communities, schools, and social networks.
The problem of stigma is very real.
For the youth and families we serve every day at Edgewood Center for Children and Families, there is no forgetting about past abuse or trauma. But there is recovery. For many of us, these acts of random gun violence may trigger wounds and previous losses. It’s important that we take care of ourselves and help those around us to take care of themselves as well. Please let young people and loved ones who are struggling with their own mental health — depression, isolation, self-harming activities or those that harm others– know that they are not alone. Please reach out to them and reach out to Edgewood. We’re here to help.
Here are some mental health links to resources to begin the process:
Thank you for partnering with us to help transform lives that are impacted by trauma. It’s incredibly humbling to witness resiliency and hope that I see every day in the children and families we serve.
Lynn Dolce, MFT
Chief Executive Officer