Clearly, after the Uvalde tragedy, President Biden is committed to taking action on the issue of mass shootings and the safety of children. There are two direct strategies that can be implemented to address this crisis: gun controls and mental health.
My expertise is in providing mental health and well-being outcomes through schooling, or what is commonly known as school-based mental health best practices. I have written four books, numerous scholarly articles about this field, and developed three best practices used in over 50 countries.
About four years ago after the Parkland shooting, I wrote a book and initiated the “Mental Health for All” campaign. Our vision is to bring our three best practices for mental health prevention to every school district nationally. Obviously we have much work to do.
The sound basis of this proposed Mental Health for All initiative is that happy, healthy, flourishing children and adolescents do not do harm to themselves or others.
Our responsibility is to produce children and adolescents who have learned the 40 critical mental health and well-being competencies through their schooling so as to prevent the next mass shooting.
Within every school, church, community and neighborhood in the United States, there is at least one person who is ready to act out in violence. What alternatives are available to school students, rural Americans, small town parishioners, concert attendees, innocent school children, and American citizens everywhere, other than to accept the next tragic mass shooting? Are they and school leaders helpless — perpetual victims of those who are angry or upset or want revenge upon those who have done them wrong in some way? What can young people, their parents, and school and community leaders do to positively impact incidences of human violence in our modern society by improving the mental health and well-being of all of our citizens?
Instead of our schools and communities being the victims of violence, they can be the source of teaching positive psychological health and well-being. We can institute newly research-based best practices now with the commitment of concerned and compassionate and effective leaders. We can prevent incidences of violence by young people through our schools. I hope to offer hope and sound research-based methods to school superintendents everywhere, to our local school boards, dedicated teachers, and concerned parents across our great country — that we can implement these best practices in the short-term.
Our political leaders from both parties do not call for mental health for all young people attending schools because they do not have a school-based, evidence-based model they can recommend that would improve well-being outcomes — an important purpose of education in the 21st century. Nor do they have the perspective to take the longer term view that addresses the mental health and well-being of all Americans. Clearly they are too caught up in the never ending and unwinnable debate regarding sensible guns laws or mental health screening of those who would purchase guns.
CNN anchor Jake Tapper correctly states that “as a society we are failing our children.” Thoughtful analysis by MSNBC’s Chuck Todd asserts that “we are frozen as a society as to what to do: focus upon gun control or mental health policies.” Additionally, former ATF violence expert Jim Cavanaugh offers a broader contextual view that we spend a lot of money on many response resources, such as police training, school lockdown procedures, and community crisis response — but not on what is most important — prevention.
I would like to see influential leaders use this sad and most recent tragedy to call for a much bolder and broader policy of mental health for everyone — every child attending a public school in America.
I know that we can do better, and should do more to honor the goodness within all of us.
Dr. Henry G. Brzycki is a noted well-being psychology and education expert and president of The Brzycki Group & The Center for the Self in Schools. He can be contacted at [email protected].