The horrific mass shooting that left 19 children and two adults dead at Robb Elementary School at the hands of an evil teenage madman in Uvalde, Texas, calls for multipronged solutions that first and foremost address mental illness in America, not solely knee-jerk reactions calling for more gun control.
Yes, we must keep firearms out of the hands of mentally unstable individuals, and if that requires more stringent background checks that may prevent future tragedies, so be it. We should all support commonsense gun control laws, no matter one’s political affiliation. But what we can’t ignore is the sobering reality that America is undergoing a nationwide mental health crisis, and no amount of gun control or legislation can erase the root cause of violence.
The fact is sane people don’t shoot up schools. Sane people don’t kill others at the supermarket, like what happened in Buffalo, New York, this month. So, until our country gets serious about addressing mental illness and increasing access to mental health services in every state and school nationwide, the problem will tragically persist.
Did you know that as of 2018, the second leading cause of death for 10- to 24-year-olds is suicide? Not COVID-19; suicide. That terrifying statistic released by the American Academy of Pediatrics means too many of our nation’s children are severely depressed and/or suffering from acute mental illness. How is that acceptable in the wealthiest nation in the world — a country that has the funds and resources to provide mental health counselors, social workers and other trained professionals in every city and school in America? Obviously, suicide is different that homicide, but it’s important to highlight that mental instability among youth in America has reached alarming levels we can no longer turn a blind eye to.
The government must act with the same urgency, mobilize resources and fast-track sensible solutions as we do with other public health crises. This is something the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Children’s Hospital Association warned about while declaring a national emergency in children’s mental health last October. “Young people have endured so much throughout this pandemic and while much of the attention is often placed on its physical health consequences, we cannot overlook the escalating mental health crisis facing our patients,” American Academy of Pediatrics President Lee Savio Beers, M.D., said in a statement. “Today’s declaration is an urgent call to policymakers at all levels of government — we must treat this mental health crisis like the emergency it is.”
One of the challenges is there aren’t enough psychologists and mental health providers available to those who need them. Across the country, there are weeks long or months long waiting lists to get an appointment, and that’s if patients can afford to pay hefty costs for treatment, as many mental health services aren’t covered by insurance.
This is where the Biden administration should focus its efforts. Instead of giving free syringes and “smoking kits” to drug addicts via taxpayer-funded “safe” injection sites, they should be using those millions, in addition to other funding, to provide mental health screenings and resources to every at-risk kid beginning in fifth grade.
Can anyone say priorities?
Newsweek reported today the murderous 18-year-old school shooter, now deceased, was bullied in school for wearing eyeliner and having a stutter. Although the shooter reportedly had no known history of mental illness, one can only wonder if things would have been different had he gotten the mental health treatment he obviously needed long ago. Would early intervention and years of psychological counseling averted the senseless rampage? We’ll never know, but given the horrific alternative, we can’t afford not to provide services to those who need them.
It’s absurd that the government wastes billions of tax dollars each year on fraud, waste, abuse and countless failed programs. It sends billions overseas to countries that burn our flag, but somehow it can’t provide mental health services to citizens who desperately need them?
The government must also increase social media surveillance, as the deranged shooter warned of the attack online, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott during a presser on Wednesday. School security must be enhanced via greater police presence and possibly installing fencing around school grounds like gated communities. It’s ridiculous that Americans must show their IDs and pass security checkpoints before entering a gym or upscale resort, but any lunatic can enter school grounds.
That must change today.
Adriana Cohen is a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. To find out more about Adriana Cohen and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.