Travis Hildebrand: Let’s focus on mental health in wake of school shootings | SteamboatToday.com

Travis Hildebrand: Let’s focus on mental health in wake of school shootings

As we consider what should be done regarding the reoccurring events of school shootings and other tragedies, it is important to drive down to the root cause and not put mere Band-Aids over wounds that do not even address the predominant issue.

The article "Sheriff calls for marshals" published on Feb. 28 eludes that Sheriff Wiggins proposes putting armed marshals in Routt's 11 public schools at a very rough estimated cost of $1.26 million per year, or $127 per Routt County property owner. If we look at this from a larger perspective, according to Colorado Department of Education, in 2017 there were 1,876 schools in the state of Colorado. If every district did the same as what Sheriff Wiggins is proposing, we would spend, in very rough numbers, $215 million annually in the state.

This seems to be a solution to a potential threat, not the problem. I agree that something must be done, but this isn't a local problem with a local solution in the long term.

I have learned that if there is a will, there is a way. Even if we put an additional officer at the school with the sole purpose of defending the students, there is little to no guarantee that this will actually provide enough protection of our community's children.

In several cases, including the recent Florida shooting, the authorities were made aware of the potential threat and were not able to act on that warning. I don't blame the officers, or the superiors in the office for the sheer number of 'potential threats' that must come in on a daily basis, but I think we are be missing the mark from a process standpoint.

Maybe it is time to step back and assess the mental health of this nation. Looking back in history at the shootings, they mostly occur from students within the student body of that school and in retrospect, it is commonly said that the perpetrators were known to have some type of mental health issues.

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My belief is that our government to insurance providers, and all the way down to our communities do not take this matter seriously enough. It can often take weeks to get in for a first visit to see a licensed therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist as a new patient if you are trying to work around a schedule that we all battle – school, work, life. If we don't make the process easy to get in and get appropriate help, then anyone with an aversion will drop off and the issue(s) will not be addressed.

It is exciting that in our community we support the local arts, which work the brain, the sports clubs, which work the physical body, and our school system, which forms our foundations for life-long learning, but I think it is time that we support our community's mental health. While some community-based practices may be able to accept donations, there are other ways to support these organizations. You can support this through:

  1. Legislation change at the state or federal level to have more benefits available through our insurance providers.
  2. Supporting individuals that need this assistance.
  3. Making it socially acceptable for our community members to seek out this type of help and remove the stigma attached to visiting a mental health clinic.
  4. Financial contributions to scholarship funds in university departments that produce these therapists.

If we are going to annually spend an extra $215 million in Colorado, let's spend at least part of that on our mental health, for a peace of mind for our community.

Travis Hildebrand

Steamboat Springs