We Need to Care More About Mental Health Care, Starting in the Schools

I was just watching some commentary on the Navy Yard Shootings that occurred a short time ago, and indeed how mundane these mass shootings are seeming.  No one even appeared to take notice of this last one, and that is really scary.

I’m not going to get into a debate about guns.

But I am going to get on my soapbox for a minute about something I feel is related.

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

The school where I used to work has one counselor and one social worker for 900 children.  The school where my son is enrolled now has one counselor for 300 children, and no social worker.  (And guess who is often in charge of all the standardized testing in the school?  How much counseling do you think they get done with that on their plate??)  You see, these positions are often the first to get cut or reduced, often to preserve the teaching staff.  And while I don’t disagree that teachers are important, I have seen the children walking through our school doors over the past 20 years.  I have seen how aggressive, how damaged, how out-of-control they have become.  And I have spoken with the parents, the ones who when you meet them, cause you to say, “Now I understand.”

Today’s kids are dealing with a lot.  They are exposed to so much more than in years past, and too often, parents are not on top of it, neither to control what they are watching, hearing, experiencing, nor to help them process that information.  I don’t know if bullying has increased over the years, but I do know that most kids can be mean, and when I say mean, I mean MEAN.  That’s a lot for anyone to deal with.  And then if you don’t have a perfect home-life…

Mental health in this country has always been taboo.  Unfortunately, we are telling our kids that it isn’t that important through underfunding the resources that they need to help them be of healthy mind.  And they are left to deal with the world on their own terms, with virtually no help.

I’m not suggesting that this is a cause of these mass shootings that have become so common, but our attitudes toward mental health don’t seem to have changed, even with the evidence staring us in the face.  And support for our children and their mental health should not be an afterthought, only provided when there is enough in the budget.  Our actions speak loudly to those kids, and right now we are telling them to suck it up and deal.  That’s not good enough.

Sunday Shout-Out: United Way and Newtown Savings Bank

Many of us want to help, and we feel like there is very little we can do.

A friend from Connecticut posted a link to this Newtown Patch article, and I wanted to pass this along:

“As people from our area and beyond respond to this heartbreaking tragedy, they are turning to United Way looking for ways to help.  In response, UWWC, in partnership with Newtown Savings Bank, has created the Sandy Hook School Support Fund that will provide support services to the families and community affected by this senseless tragedy.

To donate to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, you can send a check to:

Sandy Hook School Support Fund
c/o Newtown Savings Bank
39 Main Street, Newtown CT 06470

Or, checks may be dropped off at any Newtown Savings Bank branch location – http://www.nsbonline.com/about-us/locations.aspx. For questions please call 800-461-0672.

To donate online, go to https://newtown.uwwesternct.org

I’m not sure what else we can do, besides start a long overdue national dialogue both about mental health and the problem with guns in this country, but that small community will need all the help it can get, and this is one way to send it.

A Wee Obsession with Fire Alarms…

Since the fire drill about a month ago, The Boy has been watching YouTube videos of fire drills going off, creating PowerPoints where his favorite video game characters are experiencing fire drills, and we have had more than one Fun Friday dedicated to fire alarm inspections of the local elementary schools, with varying success.

On Thursday last week, I picked The Boy up from Kids Club and he had made a couple of fire alarms from construction paper:

It may be difficult to see, but each has a picture of a house on fire (printed from the computer, with the matching color background), and a man running from the house.  The dots are the speakers, and the lines indicate that sound is coming from those speakers.

Needless to say, these alarms were promptly “installed” at our house, in the hallway, and in the kitchen:

Don’t ask me how he got up above the sink…

I asked if he’d like to visit a firehouse, and was met with silence (which is Boy-speak for “no”).  This too shall pass.  At least he doesn’t seem anxiety-ridden about it – it actually seems like he’s having fun.  This too shall pass…  Right?

Residual Effects of a Fire Drill

fire_alarm

fire_alarm (Photo credit: auchard)

I bet moms with neurotypical kids don’t even know when they have had fire drills at school.  I bet they don’t even think about fire drills often, if ever.

In our house, fire drills happening at school is huge news.  We rarely know in advance, and yet hear about them for weeks afterwards.

The Boy’s school had a fire drill yesterday, and consequently, our Fun Friday consisted of going to another school in the district after kids club to look at their fire alarms in the gym.  The Boy found that they did not have the proper coverings (the cage-like covers that protect them from balls and other flying objects in the gym), and wanted to go find the custodian to inform him of the fact that they needed to be covered properly.  I suggested that I could email him rather than roaming through a school that is not ours to confront a custodian we don’t know about his naked alarms.  Luckily, The Boy was OK with that.  It was also lucky that The Boy is a bit of a celebrity in the district, and one of their kids club employees is the mom of one of our kids club employees, so that we were able to enter the school and let The Boy do his thing without anyone raising an eyebrow.

And so, for the next week or so, The Boy will be pointing out the different fire alarms he sees wherever we go, and comparing them to the catalog of fire alarms he has in his head, “Those are like the white ones at the middle school!”  As I write this, he is having a pretend fire alarm at the pretend school where he is the pretend gym teacher. “Mmm.  Mmm.  Mmm,” I hear from the dining room.