I woke up this morning to learn that public schools were closed all across Colorado today.  This is because of a young woman who is described as being obsessed with the Columbine High School shooting of 1999.

My heart breaks for all the families that have lost loved ones from mass, public shootings like that one.  In particular, my heart goes out to the families of the Columbine shooting during this time and painful reminder.  Your loss is still painful and it is still remembered to this day.  Nor should it ever be forgotten.  Even though so many of us are not originally from here, Colorado remembers.

I feel behooved to discuss mental health and gun safety today.

Guns are not toys.  While they may be tools in sportsmanship or marksmanship events like shooting clay pigeons, a gun is first, and foremost, a weapon.  While it can be used to protect our country in times of war or conflict, it can also be used for malintent.

If you are a parent of a teenager, discuss, at great length, gun safety and current gun legislature so your children are overly familiar with what is and isn’t appropriate gun usage.  Also, keep your firearms locked away safely in a gun safe to avoid any kind of unfortunate accidents.

If you are a gun owner, I will always recommend taking a class on gun safety and handling so you can avoid any accidents as well.

It is also my hope that gun control laws change to take in mental health considerations.  While I believe it is the right of the American people to own firearms, I believe more consideration needs to be taken into background and mental health checks before an individual can purchase a firearm.  Today is a particularly harsh reminder that when one is unwell, he or she is unfit to use or purchase such a weapon that can be used in a time of unclear thinking.

The criteria to place someone on an involuntary mental health hold at a psychiatric hospital (please don’t call this a mental hospital) is if they are a danger to self or others.  Should mental health evaluations be required for firearm purchase, situations like this could be avoided.  I believe this is not discrimination, but an act to maintain public and personal safety.  People who are contemplating suicide or homicide are struggling with clear thinking and need professional help and compassion, not ammunition.

Today’s Circumstances

The young woman who purchase a shotgun today is clearly a danger to self and may in fact be a danger to herself considering we don’t know if she would end her life after attempting another mass, public shooting.

While I believe she will need to face the consequences of her actions, I also believe that she needs serious intervention.

The FBI tip line for this current case is 303-630-6227 and the young woman needing to be detained and evaluated for professional help is Sol Pais.  The public is instructed to not approach this young woman (18 years of age) at this time as she is believed to have purchased a shotgun.

What to Look for in Teens who may be Struggling

This is not intended to be a witch hunt by any means.  However, I encourage all parents reading my blog today to talk to your children about these events today in a kind, open, but serious manner.  This kind of event is called systemic trauma where a large system is exposed to violence or other difficult events.  This can also include suicide which mental health professionals now know has a “contagious” element to it.  This means that when one person as completed or attempted suicide, it can often spark the idea in nearby people that may also be struggling with anxiety, depression, or another mental health struggle.

Regarding people who may be considering enacting a public, mass shooting, I would advise to take all threats seriously.  This is a similar approach as to what I do with discussion around suicide or self-harm behaviors.  Take these discussions seriously whether it is about hurting oneself or someone else.

If someone is talking about hurting other people, take it seriously and report it appropriately.

If someone is talking about hurting themselves, take it seriously and help them get connected with immediate help.  If they are at home alone, you can call 911 to conduct a wellness check.  If they are with you, you can either call a crisis hotline, local community mental health crisis team, or if you need to you can also call 911 in this kind of situation as well.  You can also go directly to your local hospital or local psychiatric hospital where they can get specific mental health help.

Available Support

If you or a loved one is struggling with the events of today, I encourage you to reach out.  You may call me to schedule an appointment or any counselor in the area that you trust and feel would assist you during this time.  Do not wait to act on reaching out for help.  Call immediately and follow through with setting your appointment.

This is a very serious topic.  While this blog is my opinion, I write this for my reader’s consideration and hope that it may guide you to learn even more about how to maintain mental health in our community and in our individual selves.