3 Things You Can Do after the Newtown Tragedy
We can no longer afford the luxury of inaction or ineffective solutions to the thief of community violence. On Friday, he stole 28 innocent lives, most of who hadn’t yet celebrated their eighth birthday. We know this thief. We saw him in a movie theater in Aurora, a high school at Columbine, a classroom at Virginia Tech. It is time to confront this thief, to draw in our wagging fingers of blame and fight for meaningful, lasting change.
Community violence is a complex problem that affects and is caused by us all — in our reluctance to control the nation’s number one vehicle of murder and suicide (the gun); our unwillingness to prioritize mental health and prevention programs; and our hands-off approach to troubled neighbors, classmates, and friends. To point fingers in blame is futile. It leads to checking off boxes rather than real change. Recrimination is a luxury we can no longer afford.
It’s time for hard conversations and meaningful action. Our colleague Ron Manderscheid urges that our grieving must have a direction and purpose to galvanize action; the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law notes that a stronger commitment to vital community mental health services is long overdue and must be paired with improved gun laws in order to prevent future tragedies. The National Council for Behavioral Health joins our colleagues by seeking to advance a legislative and public education agenda that will save lives. What we need now is not another national conversation but action, solutions that will deny violence the opportunity to steal our children, our parents, our siblings, and our friends. And we ask our member organizations to stand with us as we work on Capitol Hill and in communities across America to do three things.
- We must stop shortsighted, draconian cuts to mental health.
- We must dramatically increase the behavioral health system’s capacity to care for people desperately needing care.
- We must all heed the call to equip our neighbors and communities to recognize mental illnesses and connect people to care.
Like me, I’m sure you’ve been asking yourself “What can I do to make a difference?” I urge you to take action to:
- Stop cuts to public mental health
- Establish FQBHCs with a secure funding stream
- Spread Youth Mental Health First Aid in your community and improve student health by supporting legislation for Mental Health First Aid at institutions of higher education
Please join me in taking action — today, in the weeks to come, and in all future battles to make our communities safe and healthy for all.