Pickerington Times-Sun

Guest column

Shootings show need for early mental health intervention

It's time for us to do something about mass shootings.

It's time for us to do everything we can as individuals, families, institutions, communities and as a nation.

It's time for us to commit to doing everything within our power to prevent another Newtown tragedy.

There is one thing that we can do to make a difference. We just need the collective will to do it.

This one part of the solution is to make early mental health intervention available to all of our children.

EMHI means reaching out to children in order to screen, to educate, to assess, to consult and to treat when necessary.

It means involving their family right from the beginning in this process, because we know that families function as systems -- each member impacting all other members.

And it means involving all of us who work with kids every day.

We know that early intervention in the life of any illness or health condition is the most effective strategy.

We know that it is typically the least expensive strategy as well, both in terms of financial as well as human cost.

So, EMHI is more effective and more efficient than later intervention or no intervention; it's a smart investment in the well-being and safety of our community.

We know that teachers and other school personnel are excellent predictors of kids who are troubled -- of kids who may develop severe mental illnesses and emotional disturbances. We need to capitalize so much more on their expertise.

We all know by now that children and adolescents who are alienated from the world around them can be dangerous to themselves and at times dangerous to others.

But children and adults become alienated; no child starts out that way.

While they can be tricky to recognize, we know the signs and symptoms of childhood mental illness. We know the risk factors and we know the protective factors.

We know how to do specialized treatment for children and families. We know that treatment works and people recover.

We are acutely aware today that a small number of untreated individuals in our society can do a massive amount of damage that can never be completely repaired.

It's time to act on what we know.

Please contact us if you would like to be part of a local dialogue and part of the solution for our Fairfield County community.

Mei Bezon, LISW-S, is a child and family therapist and the Pickerington Area Counseling Service practice manager. She can be reached at mbezon@nhyfc.com.

Nate Johns, M.D., is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and the PACS medical director. He can be reached at njohns@nhyfc.com.

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