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The Sorry Truth behind the Parkland Massacre

By       Message Lori Dunkerley Lorenzini       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   5 comments

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How did mental health treatment and gun reform get to be opposing issues in the news? They definitely are not in reality. But watch commentators and politicians on TV and you'll hear them advancing that ridiculous dichotomy.

The flashpoint is the recent atrocity committed by a student gunman in Parkland, Florida. Gun rights activists are blaming the tragedy on mental health issues. Others say it's the guns that are at fault.

Both sides are oversimplifying the issue in my view. They engage in heated "it's this/not that" argumentation. But in truth the problem demands dealing with both points of view. It's a gun control and a mental health issue.

Shamefully the highly vocal commentators and politicians are damaging one cause to support the other. Why do they continue to fall into these rabbit holes of polarization?

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A good example of this nonsense was E.J. Dionne's Washington Post article, "On gun violence, we are a failed state." It's basically about the Parkland massacre. He mocks those who deflect complicity away from gun-related concerns, derides political sentiment supporting improved mental health care as empty words, and in the end actually describes those advocating for better mental health services as complicit in spreading propaganda. What a reprehensibly cheap shot Dionne has taken in manipulating the nation's currently grief-stricken psyche to advance his partisan agenda.

It's clear to me that one side highlights the need for more mental health services to distract attention from the real need for gun reform. Ironically that same side may actually be cutting the funding that could improve the mental health services that it trumpets.

The other side responds by diminishing the need for improved mental health services as a way to inflate the urgency of gun reform. What senseless pursuits by all!

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I don't come to this issue with any kind of political motivation. I actually agree that gun reform is a huge part of this problem. But I am also a mental health professional who works day in and day out with kids and families who need help. I am simply dumbfounded as to why many with a public voice are choosing to address these issues as if they are mutually exclusive.

The characters dominating the news are pushing purely political positions without the benefit of any real knowledge or understanding. Dionne, for instance, lamented that "we should not have to point out over and over that while mental illness exists everywhere, other countries do not have killing sprees comparable to ours."

I wonder how much direct research he actually did before making that statement. Has he diligently looked at the comparative rates of mental illness in other countries? Or did he just read a superficial article online?

Did he conduct a full meta-analysis of multiple verified scientific studies? Did he analyze the relative mental health treatments available and accessible in those comparison countries? Or was he content to just regurgitate talking points he picked up from his political cronies?

Speaking of canned rhetoric, there is the meme floating around that "missed signs" are to blame for school shootings. There may have been some signs that were not responded to in Parkland. But that issue pales in comparison to the greater reality. I'm talking about the significant inadequacies and barriers that exist when it comes to mental health care in our communities.

My colleagues and I see many kids and many adults who are struggling with a range of mental/brain health issues. Those of us in the trenches who are working with these children and families are not missing or ignoring the signs. We are actually screaming from the rooftops to try to get help for those involved. But the help is either not there or is inadequate or does not stay for the long-term to sustain a successful outcome.

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Many times families that seek out care are finding there is no accountability for the quality of the services provided and no commitment to ensuring accessibility and affordability. That strikes them as a bitter realization and paints an off-putting picture.

There is a need to persist in engaging individuals and families who become so beaten down by the inadequate system that they give up trying. But who is to provide that kind of stewardship? The resources are inadequate.

Meanwhile politicians and commentators create the illusion that incidents like Parkland happen because of "missed signs." They make it seem like high-risk individuals "just fell through the cracks."

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Lori Dunkerley Lorenzini is a practicing school psychologist in Massachusetts with degrees from Boston University and Tufts University. She completed an internship at the neuropsychology department of a children's hospital and earlier assisted (more...)
 

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The Sorry Truth behind the Parkland Massacre