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    Posted February 12, 2013 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Gun control debate: Background checks

    FortuneEA and 14 other iReporters contributed to Open Story: Tributes for Newtown
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    Government missing mental health aspect on gun control


    Standardized psychological testing must be added to annual academic assessment exams for high school students. Gun control is not the only answer to preventing teen violence.

    We hear all the gun control perspectives, yet not one starts at the root cause of adolescent and teen rage in this country.  The U.S. government must incorporate psychological readiness testing into the standardized academic assessment testing, such as the Mastery, PSAT and SAT exams administered annually to elementary and high school students nationally, with the Mastery tests beginning in grade 3 (age 8-9), and continue through high school.  While the PSAT and SAT tests are not mandatory, they are required for any high school student seeking acceptance into an accredited college, university or advanced studies program post high school.  The Mastery tests are used as a gauge for class placement in core secondary studies (English, Math, Science), while the PSAT and SAT tests are given to students in grade levels 9-12, ages generally between 14-18, covering the same core subject matter at a higher level. Where is the student's ability to manage the stress of the academic environment assessed, along with the emotional challenges which may present themselves along the way?  Shouldn't a student be assessed as a whole, rather than in part?

    Once the mental illness and/or emotional instability of a student is identified, along with the student's academic aptitude, a clearer picture of who the student is as a whole is gained.  The Newtown shooter was an academic genius, however incapable of functioning in a sane manner in a public setting. He lacked self-control, however isolation was clearly not the answer.  Nor was a mother's attempt to bond with her troubled son by introducing him to a firing range, however opinionated my view may be.  I believe a mother's time spent with her troubled son may be better spent in a more peaceful environment, in attempt to help her son get well so he could possibly enjoy life amongst others, versus hating those around him who possessed this ability while he suffers in silence.  The Newtown shooter's extreme intelligence served no purpose when it came down to making the simple choice between right and wrong, nor was his Autism to blame.  He was mentally ill and had been for quite some time.  This fact alone supports the vital importance of establishing the psychological capacity of students, along with their intellectual ability, in order to provide them a balanced foundation from which to draw, to support their academic success and foster psychological good health, during these formative years.

    Leaving mental illness untreated says shame on us as parents, government officials, educators, guidance counselors and anyone else who may have a say in the how our children's mental, emotional and physical health is maintained.  Ignoring such mental illness, or attempting to isolate the child, to hide his/her mental issues, is a prescription for creating a time bomb.  Our government, Federal and State, must work closely with our educational systems to aid these students and their families to ensure they receive the level of care they desperately need to cope with their mental illness or emotional instability issue(s).  This requirement should go hand in hand with gun control, as the gun control relates to the presence of guns in households where young children and teens reside.  While gun control may present an aspect of restricting the availability of guns to those without a rap sheet, it serves no purpose for preventing the disturbed child from stealing a gun from his/her parent's possessions in their desperate attempt to vent their internal frustrations upon innocent bystanders.  Does it matter that this child's father or mother passed the gun control requirements with flying colors?  Not in the least.  Gun control is meaningless without tackling the mental illness issue first.

    While the development of an accurate mental health assessment examination may seem daunting, it is no less of an undertaking than the medical professionals have already endured in the development of the very same generic examinations administered to adolescents and teens when brought to a mental health facility or hospital for psychological and emotional evaluation.  Such exams are no less difficult to develop than the standardized academic testing currently administered. The state of mind of any adolescent or teen can easily be gauged through their responses to simple questions posed to them relating to personal perspective on a variety of random and hypothetical situations presented in a standardized testing format.  Further, obtaining a written essay response to a challenging question relating to such subjects as bullying, isolation, alienation from peers, substance and physical abuse, life situations and parental relationships can be incredibly revealing.

    Given the few students within each school environment who may be identified as having some level of mental health issues, which may trigger violent behavior when provoked, a psychological assessment will help school administrators and educators increase the safety aspect within their academic environments in a multitude of ways.  The students in need will promptly and proactively receive the mental health treatment they need in order to cope, process and eventually heal, with the goal of returning to the school environment with a renewed sense of hope and personal achievement.  Other students who may require more extensive therapy, external to the school environment, will be given the fighting chance they need to address their mental illness early on, before their behavior spins out of control.

    Yes, there is the parental responsibility in all of this which is sorely missed with so many of these kids.  As a parent, I see the parental negligence on a regular basis.  There are far too many young teens left to their own devices, for several hours a day, with both parents working and not taking the time or interest to know or care about the whereabouts of their children.  And, this happens in all economic environments, and even moreso amongst the haves versus the have nots.  Parents must stop ignoring their responsibility to remain in touch with their children.  It is the parent's responsibility to make the time to talk to their children, understand what may be troubling them, ask questions, become more involved in their lives, to maintain a pulse on issues which may seem insignificant to the parent but overwhelming and complicated to the child.  There is no monetary compensation or professional prestige worth the loss of your child to undetected mental illness and emotional frailty.

    Parents must work closely with their children's teachers, guidance counselors, athletic coaches, musical instructors, and anyone who maintains any level of oversight or influence on their daily lives while they are away from their children.  Our children represent our greatest gifts.  We owe it to them, as parents, to show them we love them unconditionally and care for their well-being.  Much of what teens endure emotionally, which often triggers the violence and outrage we have seen erupt in the secondary school environments, can be healthfully treated through professional counseling offered through the assistance of the child's academic guidance counselors, but we need to identify the need before it's too late.

    It's time for our country's leaders, whom we entrust with everything we've got to ensure our children are safe, to stop reacting to teen violence through approaching this issue in reverse.  Let us become proactive instead of reactive.  We must work together, starting at the beginning, to identify what could possibly drive a young person to believe they have no other choice than to kill innocent people.

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