In the face of the terrible shooting in Florida, I want to thank you for your expressed concern for the mental health of students in our schools.
Like many of you, I’m sure, I found it hard to sleep February 14 as the bullet riddled bodies of 12 young people remained overnight in bloody pools while their devastated families received word that their kids were not returning home again. The following day, listening to the chatter on TV, the words “red flags” came up again and again. Our governmental officials, despairing their self-imposed helplessness in keeping assault weapons out of the hands of anyone who wants them, now turns to bemoaning the inadequacies of mental health.
Yet you and I know that mental health education for schools is widely available. For more than 20 years Red Flags has offered schools a proven process and inexpensive, easily implemented materials for parents, teachers, and kids. With relatively little effort, we can identify at-risk kids and get them the help they need. A year ago I contacted a South Florida mental health organization familiar with Red Flags and was told that getting any kind of universal, school based mental health programming in schools in Florida was next to impossible. They had tried and given up.
Certainly school violence is a complex issue. Red Flags can hardly claim to resolve the problem, but there is no doubt that mental health education can and should be a part of the solution. It need not be difficult, or expensive. Far from encroaching on academics, universal school-based mental health education can actually improve students’ ability to learn and teachers’ ability to teach. Beyond simply recognizing the warning signs that someone needs help, there can be a seamless process process for getting them the help they need. If done right, help comes early and remains until the problem is resolved.
So for all of you who take this issue seriously, thank you. You are doing something meaningful and effective! Keep working. Make your voices heard. Now, while the topic is current please help us reach out by liking us on Facebook (Red Flags National Organization). Don’t let this tragedy fade away until another shooting brings it to the fore. We are the ones who must make the difference. We stand with you, stand with us. Don’t let these lives be lost in vain.