While the country is apparently as divided over the issue of gun control and any legislation limiting the types of guns that can be sold and/or the oversized magazine clips that have been used in the recent massacre of innocents, even the NRA agrees, if we are to have any chance of identifying and treating those among us who are now, or have potential for becoming, emotionally unstable, we have to have a much stronger mental health system in our country and particularly in our schools.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic there were 174,000 school psychologists in the U S in 2010, but the ratio of students to psychologists is 457-1, twice the number recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists. Instead of the 22% increase previously predicted to take place in 2010 through 2020, the budget for mental health professionals has been cut or is in danger of being cut in almost every town and city in the country.
If we had early detection in our schools—grades K-12, teachers trained to better recognize signs of emotional distress among students, and a mechanism in place to keep psychologists or social workers actively involved with the follow up care and treatment, we might not only reduce the possibility of a known mentally disturbed individual committing the horrendous massacre of December 14, but also prevent at least some of the teenage suicides which have been increasing at an alarming rate. A teacher’s recorded observations could lead to uncovering cases of child molestation or abuse and timely intervention or treatment for the victims.
What we need is an emotional report card for every student with the information on it afforded the same importance as his/her academic progress. We need more resources dedicated to identifying deeply troubled children including those with early and persistent tendencies toward violence.
Wouldn’t we rather have our children remember the important dates in the history of the United States, rather than the gruesome dates of the latest school massacres?