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Katrina is a realistic and passionate optimist focused on actively challenging the way others think about themselves, others, and their world.  She has a Master's degree in Speech Language Pathology, is a certified Adult & Kid's Yoga Instructor,  and founder of Bagus Kids, a child focused company inspired to create fun, mindful products for children.  Katrina is an avid world traveler and do-gooder working for causes in children's education and the environment. You can follow her humorous, personal reflection on Life, Dating, Feminism & Political Social Change here at  Breathe, Smile, Listen 

Mental Health & Guns-Time to Talk

Mental Health & Guns-Time to Talk

This isn’t pretty. People don’t want to talk about it but it’s real. I’m going to avoid talking about the NRA, or politicians who show time and time again they care very little about the people they are meant to serve. Now as you read this story remember that these students can obtain guns under our current laws.  Think about the possibilities if they have access to guns at home.

“You F***  B***” He screams at me. The student is much taller and bigger than me.

I stay calm, very calm. I’ve worked with students with emotional issues before and while you feel your stomach turn you can breathe through it. The less you react the better. It helps knowing why (he has multiple diagnosises impacting his mental health and he is on several medications). It’s never personal. This isn’t a “real” him but it also is the “real” him because this is his daily struggle.

He has his therapist by his side.  It’s helpful to know I can refer to her when it gets to be intense.  

I had made a mistake though. It wasn't really my fault. I was filling in for someone that had left a worksheet for him to do.

He was working on complex language; inferencing. He also had a goal for social skills as he had a hard time making friends. How I can fix that you ask? I can’t but I can try to work on self awareness, and strategies that he can use with peers.

So back to the worksheet.

The worksheet was for making inferences. It was too concrete for his mood. It made him feel he had to complete something that would be judged as wrong and right.

“This is so easy! I can’t believe you would give this to me.” He says.

“Okay, well let's just talk about it as we go.” I reply.

He answers the first one correct.

“I told you this is too easy. I got it right. ” He says.

“Okay well remember we are just talking about these. It’s not about right or wrong. We learn as we talk about each one. ” I say.

The second question he can’t get. He’s very smart so this agitates him. While he is in a class for students with emotional issues (he is also in some “typical classes”) and overall he is excelling at grade level curriculum with all As.

“Let’s talk about it.” I nicely say.

He gets more agitated knowing the answer he gave was wrong.

His therapist tries some strategies.

They don’t work. He gets more upset. 

“This is F*** stupid!” He yells aggressively.  “You’re a F*** B***!” He throws his folder across the room.

"My life sucks! Do you know all I do is go to doctors and get medication! I have no friends. I can’t sleep, and all I do is sit in my room.” (This is probably true. He has been dealt a rough hand.)

“Do you know they won’t let me have a  computer to do anything on! I want to play video games. That's all I like doing  and I can't’ even do that. I hate my life! I hate this. I hate you.”  

“Hey didn’t your dad get a new job?”  the therapist says, light heartedly to try and switch his mind to something else.

“No. He can’t get a job! And you know why there’s too many f*** gay people in this state! Just like Trump says. They take all the jobs. I hate them! I hate this state! I hate these stupid people!” (This makes no sense.  Does he “hate” gay people? I don’t think so. Does he "hate" this state? I don't think so. And as much as I despise the current president he didn't say that. It’s not thought through or rational but he is on a role now.)

His therapist tries changing the subject again.

Finally she gets up. "Let’s go for a walk." She says.  He agrees.  

Our session the week before:

"Hi” he says cheerfully.

“Hi! How are you?” I ask

“I’m good.” he replies.

“Cool, okay we are going to do xyz (I fill him in)  today.” I say.

“Okay.” he sits down.

We complete some activities.  He closes his folder.

“I’d like to go early to lunch now.” He says.

“Yeah, we’re done. You can go a few minutes early. Nice job today.”

“Bye. See ya later.” he says kindly.

His therapist looks at me with a sigh of relief and thumbs up.

His therapist has a good bond with him and knows how to manage his behaviors. She has worked with him for years.

But here’s the thing, she won’t be with him for the rest of his life. No therapist will be standing next to him forever. She can’t control when or if someone else says something that sets him off, makes him feel corrected, or agitated.

He has not been violent so there’s nothing to report and even if he was there is little anyone can do.

Now here is the really tricky part that makes American brains shut down. Having an emotional or mental issue does not mean you will be violent but does not mean you won’t be either.  It takes a case by case review and because  we are trying to protect everyone's rights (rightly so) we aren’t always getting it right.

However, in my personal opinion this kid should never have access to a gun.

For now, he is fairly well supported (at the time of this story). When he leaves school there will be minimal support. There will be some in home services available and other programs. They won't be enough. He can’t be “flagged” as potential to harm himself or others because that would be infringing on his rights. However, he can buy a gun. 

If he ever became violent the burden will fall on his parents and law enforcement who will also have their hands tied unless he seriously injures or kills someone. 

At this point we don't know much about the student that legally bought a AR-15 and took 17 lives at the school in Florida. He may have had documented emotional issues or perhaps he did not.

What I know is we are not properly serving these students and we do not have current gun laws that make sense. 

Liberals, before we get to high and mighty, do you know who actually fought for and agreed with the decision that this current administration made to allow mentally ill people to have access to guns? It was the ACLU. That’s right.  So while we direct our frustrations at the NRA it may also do some good to contact them.

Conservatives, you love your police as you say #Bluelivesmatter and know they deserve respect for having such a hard job (because they do).  Guess what? You make their jobs that much harder and put them at risk when semi-automatic weapons are easily accessible to the wrong people.

We can do better than this.

What are America’s priorities?

Where is money going?

How are we helping students and families that struggle with these issues?

I don’t care if you’re a gun owning Republican or a gun hating Liberal.

Ask yourself do our current laws make sense?

America is a beautiful country for our freedom, but don’t kids deserve to go to school with the freedom of not being shot?

So take a breath,  I don’t know if we can smile right now, but can we please listen to each other to act and do something. 

There’s been too many deaths. We need to talk. We need to listen. We need to act.  We cannot keep letting this go.

 

With love

Kat

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