No one can be untouched by the events that unfolded in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. I first heard reports of the massacre on the radio while working in my home office. After that, it was difficult to keep my mind on the tasks at hand, and eventually I turned on the television.
Even though it seemed that time stood still, the minutes and hours continued to pass and a true sadness descended on me. Young children and teachers – who could possibly target them like this? It is all too unbelievable.
There has been so much discussion in the past few days about the causes of the mass killings by crazed gunmen who wield more weapons and ammunition than anyone could ever need for protection or nonviolent uses. Sadly, we’ve seen this scenario before, but Newtown might be the tipping point that changes attitudes about guns and mental health care. How can Americans tolerate such incidents anymore? How do we bear this burden or explain it to our children?
Images of the 20 youngest victims and the adults who tried to save them haunt my imagination. It is this picture that prompts me to argue that, despite some feelings to the contrary, this is the time to talk about what caused this horrific tragedy. Guns and mental health care aren’t just political issues; they are public health issues, too.
The American Nurses Association has called on President Obama, Congress and policymakers at all levels to keep the issues of mental health care and sensible gun control laws alive.
“Our country has witnessed unspeakable acts of mass shootings,” said ANA President Karen A. Daley, PhD, RN, FAAN, in a press release. “The common thread in each of these tragedies has been the lethal combination of easy access to guns and inadequate access to mental health services.”
Here is what the ANA is asking policymakers to do:
• Restore access to mental health services for individuals and families.
• Increase students’ access to nurses and mental health professionals from the elementary school level through college.
• Ban assault weapons and enact other meaningful gun control reforms to protect society.
Delay is the friend of inaction and the enemy of change. Americans, and especially nurses, need to start making changes in our attitudes when it comes to guns, the health and safety of our children and the need for good mental health care. We need to do this while the wounds of Newtown are still open and hurting. All the needed discussion has taken place. It’s time to act.
During this holiday season, our heartfelt sympathies and thoughts go out to all the people of Newtown and elsewhere who have been affected by this tragedy.
What do you think? How has the Newtown tragedy affected you?
Tell us about it.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Posted by E'Louise Ondash at 10:35 AM