We can not be tolerant of mass shootings: We can do better and our kids’ futures require that we do.

#Itisonus #Wemustdobetter #Thechildrenneedus

I was going to share the news about a mass shooting that happened in a school in WA state yesterday but then I went to this link: http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting

and realized that this tragic event was not even the only mass shooting of yesterday in the USA.

Topics of gun control, mental health, mentoring relationships immediately come to mind as I try to access what can be done. Probably most of us started doing that.

But whether it is a combination of a well meaning mentor, invested teacher, a school initiative or practice, a positive youth development curriculum, parents educated in psycho-social topics, an interconnected neighborhood etc. we need to radically accept that the onus for protecting our children from harm caused by depression, hopelessness, bullying, gun violence- is on us — not them.

We need to attune ourselves to the realities that people face and the stressors they encounter to really support them. As a past school social worker sifting through this information, I was struck by a situation I had years ago where I had to make an assessment of a student’s risks. When I was in grad school, I was hired as the school social worker for a Brooklyn Charter High school. It was an incredible opportunity to have so much influence of the vision of school social work.

The role of advocate became a central part of my work — equally prominent as the counseling, group facilitation, and workshops I gave. One of my first lessons was that outside of clinical environments it is more challenging to get others to see things through a clinical perspective (aka my perspective!).

When a situation arose that a student was showing signs of significant mental health decline- including; regularly following a female student around even outside of school-writing her love letter upon letter despite her expressed disinterest- he was also physically hurting himself- but in ways that did not raise alarms in other people — for ex. he would compulsively pick at his finger skin so they were now always raw, red, sore. I had known this student since the beginning of school and so his changes were evident to me but also he was open with me.

When I made the case for my comprehensive-this-is-essential plan for the student to the principal, she met my certainty with uncertainty. The plan I presented included me providing psycho-education to his parents, talking with the teachers in the student’s life, requesting that his parents get their child evaluated and (if deemed appropriate: begin treatment), and the creation of a safety plan in regards to his behavior with the female student, and an individualized plan for us to use when he needed extra support.

Initially, the principal adamantly minimized the severity and risky nature of his behaviors and denied the maladaptive quality to them, or that it was causing him suffering, as well as the female and others around him. I will never know if she gave me push back to test my confidence in my assessment but she let me work to persuade her — so either way I am forever grateful.

It was such a relieving feeling to see that the right space could be created within a non-clinical environment to properly assess and respond to clinical issues. The family was happy for the guidance and the student, who was now in treatment, had a major reduction in symptoms and was also much happier. The female student felt protected and a valued member of our school community and her parent’s were very relieved.

What I learned:

  • Adolescents sometimes show us in indirect ways that they need help- not being able to find the right words or not being okay with asking for help can prevent directness
  • When you are advocating do it with confidence and even a little bravado if necessary- people are depending on you to make something positive happen
  • Growth in individuals can have wide changing effects on those around them AND
  • A good team leaves room for discussion, pushback, support, and regard for everyone’s worth towards the mission

Let’s give every child the opportunity to stumble, breakdown, require a massive recharge without it including a mass shooting.

We can do better and our kids’ futures require that we get there.