By Shanequa Moore, CEO & founder of I'RAISE Girls & Boys International Corporation
When an 18-year-old teen opens fire on his grandmother, killing her and 21 other lives, including 19 innocent elementary school children, and two teachers….we have a clear crisis…a mental health crisis.
While this crisis can’t be measured by the statistics of COVID-19 cases…it is evident in moments such as this. The reality is that we are coming out of one pandemic and standing face to face with another…a mental health pandemic.
As a mother of an elementary school student, when I send my daughter to school, I expect her to return home safely. This was not the reality of the 19 moms who sent their children to school only to find that they would never return home.
19 angels who would have grown up to be the next leaders in our society, perhaps entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors...are no longer with us. This mental health pandemic is vicious…it is one that will take the lives of innocent children…and it can’t be contained through social isolation. In fact, research supports that mental health declines when there is social isolation.
We have invested much of our budget into supplies to prevent the spread of COVID, developed vaccines to protect us and reduce the chances of COVID, but very little of our nation's budget has gone into mental health supports such as school-based mental health and community-based services.
The trauma our children and teens are facing has led to steep declines in their mental health. Unlike COVID-19, trauma doesn’t go away after a month of quarantine, it remains with a person for years, sometimes even for a lifetime. Trauma is stored in their mind causing individuals to relive traumatic experiences, sometimes daily.
We have stood by and watched over one million lives lost in the nation due to COVID, leading to grief, loss, hopelessness, depression and mental instability. We don’t have all the answers but we do know that we must do something.
To the moms, dads, family members, loved ones and friends of the ones we tragically lost…I can not imagine your pain…yet I weep with each of you.
To our leaders and officials, we can not afford to wait for another tragedy. We must act now. We must invest in mental health services and support to prevent another tragedy when we have the opportunity to intervene.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”. -Dr. Martin Luther King