The National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health joins Arizonans and all Americans in mourning the loss of those killed and wounded in Saturday’s senseless attack in Tucson. As the national voice for families of children and youth with mental health needs, we recognize that tragedies that rob innocent people of their lives or wellbeing should never be simplistically explained away and forgotten.
Our members share the grief of families and friends of those who lost their lives, and fervently hope for comfort and recovery for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the thirteen others who were struck down by the gunman. At the same time, we are grateful for the courage and heroism of the many individuals whose actions prevented even greater harm and suffering.
We also commend reflection and introspection among our fellow Americans who join us in seeking to understand factors that may have contributed to Saturday’s tragedy, that its recurrence might be prevented, and its victims might derive some meaning from what has occurred. Law enforcement and defense investigations will, in the coming weeks and months, likely uncover many more details that will contribute to a better understanding of the Tucson attack.
Although the research does not support stigmatizing misperceptions, the public largely believes that mental illness and violence go hand in hand. The National Federation reminds us that most individuals who have mental health conditions – and that can be as many as one in five Americans at any given time – are no more likely to be violent than the rest of our population. A 2009 analysis of data from over 34,000 participants in the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions revealed that severe mental illness alone did not predict future violence.
We do know that in order for families and youth to be more positively engaged with mental health and other services, they need to know about them and how they can be useful. The National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health encourages people to join us in making a pledge to help parents connect with other parents whose children may have behavioral, substance use or mental health difficulties and to connect youth with other youth who have experienced mental health concerns. By giving parents and youth information about how to connect with other parents and youth, we provide natural productive support for all family members to increase their wellness and recovery management skills.