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Address fear with prevention AND intervention

In the wake of the Tucson, Arizona shootings that left six people dead and wounded 13 others, people across the nation are afraid it will happen again and preventative measures are under consideration. Some are calling for tighter gun restrictions while others are buying guns to protect themselves. In North Carolina, the State Board of Community Colleges voted on January 21 to change the admission policy in a way that would refuse to admit prospective students who may present “an articulate, imminent and significant threat to others.” 

All the responses appear to be preventative measures. What about intervention methods? In the February issue of Parenting School Years, the Mom Congress report highlights Rebecca Nachlas, a mom who is on a mission to stop cyberspace bullies. In addition to creating a safe social media web site called GlobWorld, Nachlas is helping to draft anti-bullying measures for the Florida legislature.

Intervention methods don’t have to be as elaborate as creating software programs. What if instead of installing more metal detectors, we taught our children to become friend detectors who are encouraging, empathic, supportive people who watch over others.  To paraphrase an Irish proverb, “It is in the shelter of others that we all live and grow.”

Dr. Bruce D. Perry and journalist Maia Szalavitz state that “empathy, the ability to recognize and share the feelings of others, is a crucial human quality that underlies much more than love, friendship and parenting.” Helping our children to empathize with others is a good place to start with intervention.

At my children’s high school, we are trying to encourage students to intervene in the lives of others by being a friend.  On Thursday (Jan. 27), the Green Hope High PTSA is sponsoring two intervention programs. During lunch, students are invited to learn about the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program that gives students the warning signs and tools to know how to intervene and get help for a friend who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts.

That evening, the PTSA is offering a free “To Save a Life” movie night and expo. The movie shows high schools students making some bad choices and then tells the story of how one student had the courage to do things differently by reaching out to others. It helps drive home the message that suicide should not be an option and offers ways that you can be a friend others can count on to help you through the rough patches in life.

In the expo area, students and parents will have the opportunity to learn about resources that can provide ongoing support.  Expo participants include Hopeline of North Carolina, Carolyn Zahnow – author of “Save the Teens: preventing suicide, depression, and addiction,” and Green Hope High Counselors.

There are no easy or quick fixes in helping people like Jared Lee Loughner, the 22-year-old charged in the Tucson killings. The warning signs of isolation and difficulty managing life seem to be very present in Lougner’s life, while the intervention of friends and family appears to be missing.

Dr. Glenn S. Hirsch, Medical Director, NYU Child Study Center estimates that over 15 million children and teens have a mental health or substance abuse problem. “Sadly, only one in five of the children with a mental health problem gets treated -- a figure far smaller than the number of children being treated for a medical ailment.”

NAMI's Medical Director, Dr. Ken Duckworth says if you are wondering if your child is going through a rough time in life and needs counseling that parents should trust their gut instincts. In the interview available by clicking here, Duckworth says if you are concerned, it’s a good idea to have an evaluation done to understand the symptoms and to put difficulties into perspective.

In April, Parenting’s Mom Congress will include a session on bullying. There’s still time for you to be a part of this dynamic network of moms – but you need apply. Learn more on how you can be a part of 2011 Mom Congress by clicking here. Don't delay - deadline to apply is January 31.

Liza Weidle , GHHS PTSA Health and Safety committee chair that is offering suicide intervention and prevention programs, is the NC Mom Congress delegate and author of "Truth about Parenting: Navigating the Elementary Years."