Editor's note: Earlier this week, Lakeville Patch brought you a story about Holly Ryan, a school psychologist at Kenwood Trail Middle School, who traveled back to her hometown of Newtown, CT, to help victims cope in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting.
In addition to allowing us to report her story, Ryan has been vocal about the need for changes in how we deal with metal illness in discussions about preventing future shootings.
One of the dark corners of this story for Ryan, beyond her connection to Newtown, is that the tragedy was in a school. Ryan is a school psychologist, as was Mary Sherlach, one of the victims of the shooting.
On one hand, Ryan said she hopes she would have had the same courage to protect the kids that she works with. But for her, the main thought in all of this is prevention.
Ryan wrote the following column following the tragedy in her hometown, and said she is going to persue a more active role in the discussions that will follow on how to prevent more "Sandy Hooks."
I’m increasingly frustrated with the large amount of coverage regarding gun control, and improvements to school security. While important to debate, the more pressing issue to discuss is the identification, care and treatment of those with mental illness.
As a school psychologist, I see all too often the failure of our systems to adequately identify and treat those with mental illness. Our nation’s schools are in the best position to identify these students, provide support to families, and triage appropriate mental health treatment.
I implore our President and Congress to demand mandatory mental health professionals be placed in all of our nation’s schools, and adequately fund those positions. Furthermore, mandatory mental health screenings should be given equal importance to other required tests in place to help our children.
School shootings continue to reveal the profile of a student who is quiet, quirky, socially isolated or awkward. Since they are not typically active trouble makers, they are often missed by teachers and administrators and passed off as a “misfit,” or a “loner.” Systematic mental health screenings should be as important in our schools as requiring immunizations, hearing and vision screenings, and basic skills proficiency tests.
Our nation needs to stop treating mental illness as a result of poor parenting, or an illness of choice. The stigma of mental illness only further contributes to a parent’s isolation, and reluctance to seek treatment and support for their children. Insurance companies need to pay treatments until results are seen, not set pre-determined limits on care and treatment.
I have had multiple students discharged from inpatient hospitalizations not because there symptoms had improved but because the insurance companies did not want to pay for a lengthier stay. Do not fool yourself and think this cannot happen in your hometown. If it can happen in Newtown, it can happen anywhere.
There are thousands of students with similar profile’s who are currently not being treated. It is no longer acceptable to not address the adequate care and treatment of our children.