Thoughts on Parkland from a Mental Health Perspective

Now that it’s been a week since the events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I’d like to offer my thoughts as we all try to make some sense out of this horrible event.

As a psychotherapist, I’ve worked with people who have been affected by this shooting, and I can tell you that it has been devastating and will have long term mental health consequences.  But beyond that, the depth to which this has affected everyone is astounding.  In my years of treating patients, I have never seen anything like it.  There is a collective trauma that we are all suffering that is both painful and cathartic.  

In early February, I attended a three-day Mental Health conference in Orlando.  The conference theme?  Trauma.  In retrospect the timing seems eerie.  But what I learned turned out to be very helpful.  There are specific things that mental health professionals can do to help those impacted by trauma.  The therapy is effective, and ultimately helps people feel safe again.  But it is going to take time to get through  it.  There is no way around that.

If there can be one sliver of optimism through all of this, it is that perhaps - just perhaps - this is a turning point in the conversation about guns in our society.

So here is where I think the solution lies - community.  As the conversation gets louder and more intense, we can translate the voices into action and real change.  But only if we keep the conversation going.  Thank God the young people of Parkland and now the entire country are driving this conversation forward.  As we continue to do that, this new generation will bring change.  I have no doubt about this.

What can we as individuals do?  Each of us needs to ask ourselves, and honestly answer, this question:  what am I going to do to ensure that this never happens again?  For me, I cannot just speak out.  That is important, but not enough.  So I am going to Washington, D.C. for the March For Our Lives rally on March 24.  I cannot be anywhere else.  I look forward to joining courageous people from across the county as we make our voices heard.  I hope you will think about what you can do, and then take the action that feels right to you.  Never, ever underestimate the power of your unique, individual voice.

Bob Dylan once sung, “Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall.”  Indeed.  It’s time to be part of the solution.  We can get it done. #NeverAgain