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Can We Do Anything to Prevent School Shootings?

Welcome back to Consider Yourself Hugged! Click here to listen to Episode 129. OR click YouTube below to watch! (***Disclaimer: I provide these notes as a skeleton for the show - nothing fancy 😄)

I made an executive decision: This will be the last CYH episode until the end of May. My world is full recently, and I want to devote plenty of time to my new co-hosts before we jump in with our first episode. We will spend April and part of May recording and then jump back in the end of May. I'm very excited about the future, and thank you for being on the journey with me!

Now, onward...

On Monday, March 27th, three children & three adults were shot and killed at the Covenant School here in Nashville. Last week, Michelle Kixmiller and I did an episode on talking to your children after tragedy.

Since then, the shooting has been on my mind often, and of course our local news has covered it extensively. I keep asking myself if there's anything I (we!) can do to be a part of prevention.

I have no intention of covering gun control or legislation. Although these are important, they are not areas I'll be joining.

On another front, there are so many issues in the world that may tug at your heart: homelessness, poverty, pet rescue, human trafficking..... you can't fix them all.

What I want to do today is briefly talk about what we can do - all of us.

Before I make any kind of connection between school shootings and mental health, let's not jump to a false equivalency that mental illness leads to mass shootings! According to research from Columbia’s Center of Prevention and Evaluation

Additionally, as we demonstrated in our paper, the contribution of mental illness to mass shootings has decreased over time. The data suggest that while it is critical that we continue to identify those individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders at high risk for violence and prevent the perpetration of violence, other risk factors, such as a history of legal problems, challenges coping with severe and acute life stressors, and the epidemic of the combination of nihilism, emptiness, anger, and a desire for notoriety among young men, seem a more useful focus for prevention and policy than an emphasis on serious mental illness, which leads to public fear and stigmatization.

The last thing I want to do is add to the stigmatization of mental health by contributing to the belief that those with mental health issues are violent. That is not the case.

With that said, on to what we can do.

I came across this article written by two sociologists at Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado, Boulder: Research Shows This Is How to Prevent School Shootings. What I took from it is what I suspected: there is at least something I can do to be a part of prevention, not just sadness and despair. Below, I'll outline the three evidence-based steps they discuss. It's the first one that we can all do.

  1. Teach students and adults to report warning signs

From the article:

According to the U.S. Secret Service, the 10 most common concerning behaviors among school attackers are:

  • Threats to the target or others, and an intent to attack, including on social media

  • Intense or escalating anger

  • Interest in weapons

  • Sadness, depression or isolation

  • Changes in behavior or appearance

  • Suicide or self-harm

  • Interest in weapons or violence

  • Complaints of being bullied

  • Worries over grades or attendance

  • Harassing others

Attackers typically exhibit five or more of these concerning behaviors.

2. Develop and Publicize Around-the-Clock Anonymous Tip Lines

3. Conduct Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management

What can you take from this? Focusing on #1, we can all begin to educate ourselves on signs & symptoms of behaviors that may indicate a problem. We can all educate ourselves on ways to address behavioral and/or mental health challenges in people we know. We can notice. We can listen. Let's be clear that what we can't do is diagnose or treat. Let's leave those areas to the professionals.

I encourage you to become a Mental Health First Aider. I've talked about this a lot since I took the class in February and became a certified instructor in March. What is it? It is a skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance-use issues. It is in no way designed for active shooter training, but it will help you to notice behaviors. It will equip you with the skills you need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.

Mass shootings are complex, and I make no pretense that I have an answer. But, if we can help the world at all to become a place with less bullying, more compassion, less heartache, and therefore - possibly - less anger and violence, then why wouldn't we?

Thanks for joining today! As I’ve always asked in the past, please pass the show link along to your friends and subscribe, download, and review wherever you are listening. If you’re a woman and you haven’t joined our private FB group A Place for Women, please do that now! It’ll be your source of encouragement. You can also follow my public page, Tami West Seminars.

And until the end of May, Consider Yourself Hugged 😘🤗

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