Post-Newtown: Where do we go from here?
It has been three months since the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut shocked the world and left 26 people dead [the majority of them children]. The saying, “time heals all wounds” hardly seems appropriate or begin to ease the intense pain caused by an event such as a mass shooting – particularly when innocent children are murdered. These words will offer victims’ families little comfort or solace as they try to move on with life. As Americans and people around the world struggle with one of the nation’s worst mass shootings in history, I find myself puzzled over the massive attention and focus on gun control from politicians and lawmakers as being the [primary or sole] solution to prevent future tragedies. Granted, our elected officials appear to be very concerned about the issue – I just question if enough is being done to prevent similar tragedies. Immediately following the Newtown shootings in December of 2012, I updated this blog and posed questions about why horrific events such as those in Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Columbine and others continue to plague our Nation.
As I noted in my December entry, as a Christian, a parent, and a clinician, I am concerned that if tragic events like the ones in Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Columbine and others continue at their current pace [according to a recent article in the Huffington Post, there have been 19 mass shootings in the past 5 years in the United States - which represents one every 4 months], there may come a time when people’s feelings of shock and horror are replaced with apathy, indifference, emotional detachment, and desensitization. At that point, I fear we will be in serious danger of losing our humanity.
Following the aftermath of the mass shootings in Newtown, many of us will ask this simple question – why? Why would someone do such a horrendous and heinous act? Our nation is now forced to struggle to cope with yet another mass shooting. As mentioned earlier, according to a recent article in the Huffington Post, we’ve had 19 mass shootings within the past five years [which represents an alarming rate of one every four months]. It appears that there is something amiss in the United States. Something seriously wrong.
The Grieving Process: A Nation Mourns
For now, we grieve. Grieve the losses of innocent lives caused by a senseless and despicable act. Think about that for a minute…living, breathing human beings who wake up, expect to attend school to receive their constitutional right to an education, see their classmates and friends, and go about their day peacefully. But not on that day. That day everything changed for 26 human beings and their families. On that day, all of their hopes and dreams of living a normal, fulfilling life -have been forever altered. Instead of increased focus on gun control, arming teachers, or proposed legislation prohibiting doctors to ask their patients about gun ownership or gun possession, I wonder if the constitution should be amended that guarantees all Americans the right to a reasonably normal and fulfilling life – without fear that we will be gunned down while we attend school, go to work, relax in our homes, spend time with family and friends, or pray in church or other religious sanctuary? But wait, one of our founding fathers already advocated this in an existing document:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Thomas Jefferson – The Declaration of Independence
Unalienable Rights: Our We Becoming Detached From God?
As most of us are aware, the ‘pursuit of happiness’ is not a constitutional right. It is unalienable, meaning that it belongs to each individual as a condition of their humanity. Jefferson was simply restating our natural rights endowed by God. Lately I have been thinking a lot about our humanity and God. I wonder if it is by coincidence that Americans seem to be slowly becoming more and more detached from both God and our humanity? Perhaps that it is where the real answer lies……connecting or re-connecting with God. Not gun control.
Proposed Solution #1: Stricter Gun Control?
Several groups are making strong arguments for stricter gun control in America. I have been following these debates with much interest……..for example, suggestions that we begin arming our teachers and allowing them to carry concealed weapons to school to deter further mass shootings. Perhaps I am the only one, but I thought teachers were supposed to….well, you know…teach? Isn’t that what should be in their job descriptions? Not arming teachers who need to be doing what they are called to do by their profession – which should solely be focused on providing the educational needs of our children.
One proposed solution that I do agree with, is the suggestion that we increase police presence or hire police officers to promote a safer school environment. This makes the most common sense as police officers are trained to use firearms and have been educated on how to safely de-escalate threats during emergency or crisis situations.
Prohibiting Doctors From Discussing Gun Safety With Patients: Are We Going Too Far?
In examination of one of the more questionable solutions being proposed, there is a recent piece of legislation proposed by the State of South Carolina that would prohibit doctors in South Carolina from talking to patients about guns. Specifically, law makers are proposing to make it ‘illegal’ for doctors to ask their patients about gun ownership or gun possession. As a mental health clinician I find this disturbing and confusing as I routinely discuss this matter with clients as part of a risk assessment [as a preventive measure] whenever a client presents with symptoms of clinical depression and other mood disorders, substance abuse, psychosis, in cases of domestic violence, or if they verbalize suicidal or homicidal thoughts or plans. Pediatricians also frequently discuss this issue to parents with children as part of gun safety and prevention of gun-related accidents. The vast majority of doctors and clinicians I know believe that it is far better to prevent an illness or accident from happening in the first place [rather than trying to cure it afterwards].
Preventing An Illness Or Injury From Happening Is Far Better Than Having To Treat One
In my opinion, the above proposed piece of legislation in South Carolina will only hamper clinicians or physicians for fear of “doing something illegal” in their practice with their patients if they begin to broach the topic of gun safety. It also appears that lawmakers are attempting to jump on the bandwagon of a hot topic [i.e., namely anything remotely connected with gun control] in an obvious effort to gain popularity with voters who oppose gun control laws. These law makers appear to be exploiting the gun control issue to secure votes; which unfortunately detracts from real, viable solutions from being proposed that may prevent future Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and Columbine tragedies from recurring. The proposed law to prohibit doctors in South Carolina from talking to patients about guns or gun safety has nothing to do with any of the above tragedies mentioned. However, if passed, it may have the unintended consequence of preventing future tragedies that involve firearms for fear from physicians that they themselves may be breaking the law if they ask patients about gun ownership. As noted earlier, isn’t it better to prevent an illness or accident from happening in the first place rather than have to treat it afterwards?
Polarization In America And The Second Amendment: A Nation Divided
Recognizing that the Newtown tragedy [and all other similar mass shootings that have preceded it], stir up painful emotions and questions among millions of Americans – the answer to address the problem seems rather elusive. Instead of pulling together, America appears more polarized than ever on how to address a rather serious and pressing issue…… seemingly lost in the endless argument and debate that surrounds the second amendment. As an example of this polarization, one only has to surf the internet, turn on the television, or read a newspaper and see evidence of the breakdown that exists between our elected representatives and their struggle to work together. Instead, I would like to focus on a bigger and much deeper issue that is also attached to this tragedy – one that receives far less attention from the media, politicians, and lawmakers because we don’t understand it….or perhaps simply because it scares us – Mental illness.
‘People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer.’ -Andrew Smith
Proposed Solution #2: Focus On Prevention, The Need To Legitimize Mental Health Profession and Fight Stigma Of Mental Illness In America
As a clinician who has dedicated his entire career helping others overcome or manage mental health, emotional, or behavioral concerns, I have never understood why Mental Health seems to be on the bottom rung when it comes to priority? It is consistently the least-funded and typically the first to be hacked during budget-cuts. Aside from the recent media attention following the tragedy in Newtown, the focus on mental health in America appears to be largely ignored by politicians and lawmakers. Instead of increasing awareness, education, and resources to address or improve mental health problems, some states have drastically reduced services to some of the population’s most vulnerable who suffer from severe forms of mental illness. Unfortunately, South Carolina is included in the list of those states. A year before the Aurora Colorado shootings and the tragedy in Newtown, the National Alliance on Mental Illness [NAMI], the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness, released a report in March of 2011, “State Mental Health Cuts: A National Crisis.” In its report NAMI states,
Deep cuts to state spending on services for children and adults living with serious mental illness. These cuts, which occurred between 2009 and 2011, led to significant reductions in both hospital and community services for vulnerable individuals with serious mental illness. Today, with demand for public mental health services extremely high, especially at a time of severe economic distress, the crisis in mental health care continues. The impacts are felt throughout society as people go without the treatment they need. Increasingly, emergency rooms, homeless shelters and jails are struggling with the effects of people falling through the cracks due to lack of needed mental health services and supports. States such as California, Illinois, Nevada and South Carolina, which made devastating cuts to mental health services previously, have made further cuts for fiscal year (FY) 2012, putting tens of thousands of citizens at great risk. States have cut more than $1.6 billion in general funds from their state mental health agency budgets for mental health services since FY2009, a period during which demand for such services increased significantly. These cuts translate into loss of vital services such as housing, Assertive Community Treatment, access to psychiatric medications and crisis services (2011).
State Mental Health Cuts: A “National Crisis”
Describing state mental health cuts as a “national crisis” should warrant proactive attention and immediate response. It is extremely unfortunate that it takes a national tragedy before our political leaders and lawmakers take action. Compared to other diseases, mental illness has the most stigma attached to it. Why is it that something that has the capacity to impact a vital organ [and arguably one of the most important] like the human brain continue to be treated with such fear, stigma, and misunderstanding?
Stigma Of Mental Health: A Barrier To Treatment
Unfortunately, this is quite common with individuals who suffer from mental health problems. According to (NAMI, 2011), “One in four Americans will experience a mental disorder this year. Stigma will prevent at least half of them from seeking the treatment they need.” NAMI further states, “Lack of knowledge, fear of disclosure, rejection of friends, and discrimination are a few reasons why people with mental illness don’t seek help (2003).”
If a patient had another serious illness [e.g., a life threatening illness or serious injury to another vital organ such as the heart, kidney, lungs or liver] – there would be little to zero resistance for the patient seeking treatment for their condition. In addition, no one would “think badly” or consider the patient “a weak person” for receiving treatment for a heart, lung, liver problem or condition such as diabetes that required them to be prescribed medication or receive additional treatment. Can you imagine someone saying to a brittle diabetic or heart patient with a serious, life threatening condition, “just toughen up – you’ll get through this.” The old saying used by coaches and high school gym teachers, “just walk it off – you’ll feel better” does not apply to patients who suffer from serious mental health conditions. It is laughable to even conceive such a notion – however; people who suffer from mental health issues are subjected to this type of demeaning and judgmental treatment all of the time. It is little wonder why so many patients suffering from mental health problems do not seek help.
There are several forms of mental health conditions that can be life threatening and fairly common among the population [e.g., clinical depression, alcohol and substance abuse, eating disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and certain personality disorders]. However, mental illness itself is not always life-threatening with patients who suffer from mental health conditions. According to one study, “up to 15% of people seriously affected by mental illness eventually die by suicide (compared to an approximate figure of only 1% for the whole population). Effective, ongoing treatment is essential to minimize the risk of suicide.” If “effective and ongoing treatment are essential to minimize the risk of suicide” – why is it that a large portion of society is reluctant or avoids seeking treatment? Again, we see the significant role of stigma serving as a significant barrier to treatment.
Post-Newtown: Final Thoughts
As a follow-up to my post about the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, I recognize that I’ve taken the liberty of climbing up on my ‘Mental Health Soap Box’ to address several of the issues that have arisen since the tragedy in December of 2012. I would like to reiterate the purpose of this blog entry is not to trample the Constitutional Rights of Americans. I also am not suggesting that having more guns in the United States will reduce the likelihood of future tragedies similar to Newtown, Connecticut.
My sole purpose and intent is to explore a key element that seems to be missing from what is currently being proposed by our Nation’s leaders and law makers [besides the prominent issue of Gun Control]. As a Christian, a parent, and a mental health clinician, I feel that we a as a nation, need to finally legitimize the importance of mental health in this country, focus on prevention, and provide needed education to fight the stigma associated with mental illness so that people who are suffering from mental health concerns will seek-out treatment. It is my hope that through these combined efforts, we may be able to avoid further tragedies such as Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and Columbine. The cost of not doing enough prevention – is far too great.
BTC Suite #115 Rock Hill, SC 29730-3392 Phone (803) 329-9639 www.palmettocounselingconsulting.com email: email@example.com
Author’s note: As in my previous entry, I will leave comments open for this post. Please be considerate of others when posting….no haters, spammers, or comedians…..this blog is strictly moderated by Akismet [as well as myself], so you will only will be wasting your time with spam and hater posts. However, I am very interested in receiving real, legitimate feedback from readers and welcome the opportunity to learn how this event [or other posts from our blog] have impacted you. Please feel free to submit your comments or questions. Your feedback and participation is very much appreciated, so we’d love to hear from you! In addition, please subscribe to our blog and be sure to forward to family, friends or colleagues – its totally free and we love to connect with our readers. Thanks again for reading and subscribing to Palmetto Counseling & Consulting’s Blog!
News & Updates At Palmetto Counseling & Consulting Services, LLC!
Palmetto Counseling & Consulting Services, LLC is very happy and excited to announce that we have started a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Coping Skills Group! The group is an open group format and open to adults. Group will start Thursday, March 28, 2013 and will be held 6:30 pm – 8 pm. This group will meet every other Thursday from 6:30 pm – 8 pm. We are currently accepting new patient referrals – for more information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at (803) 329-9639.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is a highly structured group intervention that teaches individuals to identify & learn effective problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills, how to express feelings, and how to focus on the “here and now” to minimize thoughts & behavior that lead to problems. The intervention features modeling, role-playing, and homework exercises. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psycho-therapeutic approach that addresses dysfunctional emotions, maladaptive behaviors and cognitive processes through a number of goal-oriented, explicit systematic procedures. CBT is thought to be effective for the treatment of a variety of conditions, including mood, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.
Issues: Anxiety or Fears, Depression, Mood, Self-Esteem, Anger / Stress Management, Coping Skills.
Age Rage: Adults [18+ and over]
Where:Palmetto Counseling & Consulting Services, LLC
454 S. Anderson Road
BTC Suite BTC Suite #115
Rock Hill, South Carolina 29730 Phone: (803) 329-9639 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Group begins Thursday, March 28, 2013
Group will meet every other Thursday evening from 6:30 pm – 8 pm
Insurance / Fees: Most Major Insurance Accepted; Regular Group Counseling Fee is $50 / person for self-pay clients.
*Note: Palmetto Counseling is pleased to announce that we have expanded our Pre-Paid Packaged Discounts to include Group Counseling Sessions.
(x1) Pre-Paid Group Counseling Session (90 mins) – $40.00
(x2) Pre-Paid Group Counseling Sessions (90 mins) – $70.00
(x3) Pre-Paid Group Counseling Sessions (90 mins) – $110.00
(x4) Pre-Paid Group Counseling Sessions (90 mins) – $150.00
(x5) Pre-Paid Group Counseling Sessions (90 mins) – $190.00
(x6) Pre-Paid Group Counseling Sessions (90 mins) – $230.00
Group Facilitator: Ms. Donna Faile, MA, LPC – Palmetto Counseling & Consulting Services, LLC
To Schedule An Appointment or For More Information, Please Contact Us (803) 329-9639 or Visit Our Website WWW.PalmettoCounselingConsulting.Com
As part of our revised format for our blog, we will begin to feature a ‘Spotlight’ on a Clinician or Palmetto Staff Member Of The Month to recognize their achievements and dedication to helping others!
This month we feature our very own, Ms. Donna Faile, MA, LPC! Donna first joined the team at Palmetto Counseling in March of 2012 and has been practicing in outpatient and inpatient treatment for over 14 years. Donna graduated from Regent University with a Master of Arts in Counseling. She is licensed as a licensed professional counselor [LPC] in North and South Carolina. As part of her clinical practice, she counsels children (10 years and older), adolescents, and adults in individual therapy. In addition, Donna has a special passion for working with clients in group counseling settings and is very excited to be facilitating our Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Coping Skills Group – which begins Thursday, March 28, 2013 from 6:30 pm – 8 pm.
Donna’s approach to counseling is psychologically eclectic and integrative. She draws heavily on cognitive behavioral and rational emotive therapies as a basis for intervention. The philosophy of her strategy is that “changing the way we think helps us change the way we feel and the choices that we make.” Her specialties include depression, anxiety, women’s issues, co-dependency, self-esteem and LGBT issues. Her passion is to help those who have been wounded by life’s rejections, disappointments and disillusionments.
Sarah D. Myers is a Licensed Independent Social Worker – Clinical Practice in South Carolina. She obtained her Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Georgia and Master of Social Work from the University of Alabama. Throughout her career, Sarah has worked in a number of areas which include hospital, nursing home, and hospice treatment settings. From these experiences, she has developed skills surrounding crisis intervention,addiction, and behavioral health issues that complicate one’s quality of life.
Sarah’s approach to counseling is eclectic and based upon a person’s individual need. She primarily draws upon strengths based theory, systems theory, cognitive behavioral therapy and solution focused or brief therapy. Sarah also enjoys working with individuals and family affected by addiction. Her passion is to teach and guide individuals to improve their quality of life. As part of her treatment approach, Sarah believes in ‘meeting the client where they are’ as a starting point to help them achieve optimum results and maneuver through life in a rewarding and meaningful way.
Sarah is currently accepting new patient referrals – for more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact us at (803) 329-9639
In February of 2013, The York County Regional Chamber of Commerce honored Palmetto Counseling & Consulting Services, LLC for its achievements in business at its annual banquet. About 400 business and civic leaders attended the banquet at York Technical College’s Baxter M. Hood Center. Congratulations to the entire staff at Palmetto Counseling for their efforts in serving the Rock Hill Community! I personally would like to thank and recognize every one on the team for helping us achieve this award and their dedication to serving our clients:
Please join Palmetto Counseling in supporting a very worthwhile cause and phenomenal organization, The National Alliance on Mental Illness [NAMI], the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI’s programs and services help people whose lives have been affected by serious mental illness.
As as a current participant in NAMIWalks scheduled in April of 2013, Ian Hartgrove notes, “I have created this fundraising page because NAMI, and the work they do, is very important to me. Donating to me through this page is easy, fast and secure. Your donation will make a difference! Thank you for your support.”
You can help Ian achieve his goal by visiting his personal NAMIWalks page on FaceBook. Good Luck, Ian!
For clients without insurance, now you can receive a discount when you purchase any of our pre-paid packages! (Available to Self-Pay Clients Only)
Palmetto Counseling recognizes the needs of clients who may be uninsured, have high deductibles, or do not have mental health, family or marriage counseling benefits as part of their insurance plan. For self-pay clients without insurance, Palmetto Counseling is pleased to offer discounted rates for pre-paid packages for Individual, Family, & Marriage / Couples Counseling office visits.
Please Note: To be eligible for discounted rate, pre-payment is required and client understands and agrees that insurance claim will not be filed. As such, Palmetto Counseling will only provide a receipt for proof-of-purchase of pre-paid counseling package and will be unable to provide clinical receipt, diagnosis information, CPT procedure codes, or any other clinical information for client to file claim with their insurance.
Pre-Paid Counseling Packages
(x1) Pre-Paid Comprehensive Clinical Assessment - $85.00 [note: Regular Comprehensive Clinical Assessment fee is $160.00]
(x1) Pre-Paid Individual Therapy Session (60 minutes) – $85.00 [note: Regular Individual Counseling fee is $110.00]
(x2) Pre-Paid Individual Therapy Sessions (60 minutes) – $160.00
(x3) Pre-Paid Individual Therapy Sessions (60 minutes) – $245.00
(x4) Pre-Paid Individual Therapy Sessions (60 minutes) – $330.00
(x6) Pre-Paid Individual Therapy Sessions (60 minutes) – $500.00
(x8) Pre-Paid Individual Therapy Sessions (60 minutes) – $670.00
(x10) Pre-Paid Individual Therapy Sessions (60 minutes) – $840.00
Family / Marital Counseling
(x1) Pre-Paid Family / Marital Comprehensive Assessment - $110.00 [note: Regular Comprehensive Clinical Assessment fee is $160.00]
(x1) Pre-Paid Family / Marital Therapy Session (60 minutes) – $110.00 [note: Regular Family / Marital Counseling fee is $130.00]
(x2) Pre-Paid Family / Marital Therapy Sessions (60 minutes) – $210.00
(x3) Pre-Paid Family / Marital Therapy Sessions (60 minutes) - $320.00
(x4) Pre-Paid Family / Marital Therapy Sessions (60 minutes) - $430.00
(x6) Pre-Paid Family / Marital Therapy Sessions (60 minutes) - $610.00
(x8) Pre-Paid Family / Marital Therapy Sessions (60 minutes) - $770.00
(x10) Pre-Paid Family / Marital Therapy Sessions (60 minutes) - $900.00
Please feel free to submit your comments or questions. Your feedback and participation is very much appreciated, so we’d love to hear from you! In addition, please subscribe to our blog and be sure to forward to family, friends or colleagues – its totally free and we love to connect with our readers.
Thanks again for reading and subscribing to Palmetto Counseling & Consulting’s Blog!