Mental health resources coming together for Uvalde kids

Health

TOPSHOT – Families hug outside the Willie de Leon Civic Center where grief counseling will be offered in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. – A teenage gunman killed 18 young children in a shooting at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday, in the deadliest US school shooting in years.
The attack in Uvalde, Texas — a small community about an hour from the Mexican border — is the latest in a spree of deadly shootings in America, where horror at the cycle of gun violence has failed to spur action to end it. (Photo by allison dinner / AFP) (Photo by ALLISON DINNER/AFP via Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — “Monkey” was the word U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy recalled children blurting out in class in the aftermath of the fatal 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 27 people dead.

It was the students’ safe word, used to grab the attention of teachers and counselors when memories surfaced of what is regarded as the deadliest shooting at a U.S. K-12 school. Although parallels have been drawn between Tuesday’s shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and the massacre in Connecticut a decade ago, the healing process for survivors will be different.

The fourth-grade class where a gunman sprayed bullets indiscriminately was celebrating one of the last days of schools. Their emotional recovery in the immediate future could be more independent, but as surviving students and staff part ways for summer break, the community is pooling mental health and crisis resources.

“It is our duty as elected officials to evaluate all possible means of making our schools safer to prevent future tragedies and ensure communities across the state — whether they are underserved populations within large cities or rural areas of the state — have the mental health resources needed,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday.

Shortly after the shooting, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District announced a plan to connect the community with mental health services. School counselors were available at all campuses and surrounding community counselors were accessible through the local civic center Wednesday.

Shauna Moore Reynolds is a mental health counselor and the director of clinical training at the Washington D.C., campus of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She’s also a Texas native and said she knows, “help is on the way.”

Reynolds spoke with Uvalde-area mental health workers, who said professionals near and far are joining forces.

“When there’s a tragedy or something happening in our state — whether it’s a hurricane or tornado or whatever — we tend to get together and come together and make sure those resources are available to everyone,” she said. “You’ll see a lot of social workers, you’ll see a lot of psychologists and psychiatrists that go out and donate their time to make sure that everyone is OK,” she added.

The impact of Tuesday’s shooting doesn’t end in Texas.

In addition to local services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shared the number for its Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990), which provides immediate crisis counseling by phone or text. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network also compiled an online list of resources available for both families and schools.

“You can get anxiety or depression, all over something that happened miles away,” she said. “So it’s OK to share those feelings that you’re having.”

Nearly 2,000 miles away in Newtown, Connecticut, Tuesday’s shooting was all too familiar for the families who survived Sandy Hook.

“Having lived through a mass shooting, still enduring the pain of our own children being killed in their first-grade classrooms by senseless violence, we know that nothing is going to bring back the precious lives lost in Uvalde,” the anti-gun-violence nonprofit The Sandy Hook Promise said in a statement. “We know that the road ahead for the Robb Elementary School community will be incredibly difficult.”

If you or someone you know is thinking of harming themself, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free support at 1-800-273-8255. Starting on July 16, 2022, U.S. residents can also be connected to the Lifeline by dialing 988. For more about risk factors and warning signs, visit the organization’s official website.

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