MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Opinion

March 8, 2013

Avoiding tragedy requires care

— Mental health training for school staff won’t go far enough to avoid deadly tragedies without greater access to mental health care.

An Oklahoma task force — created after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School — submitted five recommendations to state legislators this week.

The task force sent four other recommendations to improve school safety:

• Requiring schools to have school intruder drills.

• Establishing a school security tip telephone line to report suspicious activity.

• Requiring any firearm discovered at a school to be reported to law enforcement.

• Creating a school security institute.

Creating mental health training for school staff is a major step in preventing tragedies.

Having school staff trained in spotting the signs of mental health issues only will go so far without access to the care needed by those suffering from mental health disorders.

Society continues to attach a negative stigma to anyone associated with a mental disorder.

That stigma keeps us from seeking help for fear of being labeled.

That stigma keeps the state from providing more money to give patients the real care they need.

We are not talking about locking up mental health patients in some kind of state-funded warehouse. The state should provide patients with the treatment they need to recover.

The state should establish another task force to draw up fair guidelines for governmental intervention in mental health situations.

It is not a far stretch to say that anyone who would shoot schoolchildren has a mental disorder.

The key is spotting those potential tragedies early and having the mental health care available to prevent them from occurring.

That’s the most important thing that could come from the state’s task force.

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