Yet another school shooting. Yet another act of mass violence and mass murder. The events last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut were devastating to many. Aspects of health are entwined throughout almost every aspect surround this story, and every person connected with it, from perpetrator to victim to survivor and beyond.
When an unnamed source was quoted as saying that the gunman had Asperger’s Syndrome, there were outcries expressing concern about safety around persons with autism, concern about safety around persons with mental illness, and concerns that public or media implications that create or expand stigma for persons with either autism or mental illness or other disabilities would end up harming or destroying many more than the events themselves.
“[I]t is imperative that as we mourn the victims of this horrific tragedy that commentators and the media avoid drawing inappropriate and unfounded links between autism or other disabilities and violence. Autistic Americans and individuals with other disabilities are no more likely to commit violent crime than non-disabled people. In fact, people with disabilities of all kinds, including autism, are vastly more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators.”
Autistic Self Advocacy Network. ASAN Statement on Media Reports Regarding Newtown, CT Shooting. http://autisticadvocacy.org/2012/12/asan-statement-on-media-reports-regarding-newtown-ct-shooting/
Others are demanding improved gun control. The group We Are Better Than This offers only one of many petitions for changing legislation with respect to access to guns in the United States.
One of the best pieces I’ve read about these events is by Christopher Ferguson, highlighting some of the complexities of these issues.
Sandy Hook Shooting: Why Did Lanza Target a School?http://ideas.time.com/2012/12/15/sandy-hook-shooting-why-did-lanza-target-a-school/
In his brief essay, Ferguson, an associate professor of psychology and criminal justice, draws on parallels with acts of mass violence in other countries to show that guns are not necessarily required for mass violence to occur, and that perhaps there are more central issues, such as mental health support. His answer to why are schools so often targeted for acts of mass violence is that the perpetrators are often people in pain who want to make others suffer as much as they have, and thus they choose to hurt the most loved and most vulnerable.
“Gun control may potentially remove one tool from the hands of potential perpetrators, but mass homicides occur in every part of the globe — Scotland, Norway, Germany, China. So while it may indeed be the right time to talk about gun control, as many are saying, it is also the right time to talk about mental health care in our country. … As the National Alliance on Mental Illness has been warning for some time, the existing level of funding is inadequate, so our nation’s ability to identify and care for the severely mentally ill has been hamstrung. … Granted, neither gun control nor a well-funded mental-health system will prevent every mass homicide. But we leave ourselves — and more innocent children — vulnerable until we address both of those issues.”
As part of reading various approaches and opinions, and exploring health resources for persons involved with events of this sort, I collected a variety of resources, links, guidelines, and commentary into an interactive and structured mind map. Any node in the mindmap which has a small gray arrow to the right side is an active link that will take you to the original source. Many of these are PDF documents designed for responders, clinicians, and planners. The mindmap is continuing to be updated, but you can see a full resolution image of a recent version by clicking on the image below. To see and manipulate the mindmap itself, click on the link below.
Sandy Hook & Health Mindmap: