Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lessons From Sandy Hook: Put A Psychologist In Every School Before That Armed Guard

I was glad to see Don Roger's column "Mass Murder's Myths" in my local paper, the Vail Daily on 1/18/13. 

The article does an excellent job of clearly explaining some key points about risk, safety and the homicide rate.    As a psychologist, I especially appreciate Jeff Mariotte's quote "Put a psychologist in every school before that armed guard."   Because mental health services are often undervalued, it might actually cost fewer tax payer dollars to add psychologists to school staff than it would cost to hire full time armed guards. 

Upon reflection, maybe it could turn out to be quite a shame that most psychologists are opposed to "packing heat". At the rate things are going it wouldn't surprise me to hear someone suggest that the most economical option would be to hire armed psychologists.  When they aren't counseling students they could function as security personnel. Now, that would convey an interesting message to school children, wouldn't it? 

On a serious note, I feel privileged to practice in a profession that has so much potential to make a positive difference in people's lives. We will never know how many mass murders never happened because a potential assailant was helped by a psychologist before things got to the breaking point. As discussed in the column, we do know that mass murders have happened with armed security personnel on site. I'm pleased to see a dialog about adding psychologists along side discussions about having teachers carry concealed weapons and requiring armed guards in every school.  

Of course, there was a psychologist on staff at the Sandy Hook School and sadly, she was one of the victims. My entire profession is very proud of the effort she made to intervene with the shooter, even though it cost her her life.  Psychologists may not carry guns, but we carry the ability to help people who are troubled and improve lives. And as evidenced by the actions of Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist killed at Sandy Hook School that day, we can be pretty brave too.

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