To the Editor:
I would like to express appreciation for the “Preventing Tragedy: A Community United” presentation on Monday, April 15, at the New Hope Center. The Oak Ridge Police Department and Ridgeview are to be applauded for providing a public discussion about avoiding shooting tragedies. It is clear both the police and the mental health community, including the East Tennessee Mental Health Association, care deeply about the public’s being better informed with regard to mental health issues.
As Ben Harrington of the ETMA said, the public can use the Head in the Sand approach and hope that the problem will go away, or they can inform themselves and find ways to address it. It was pointed out that about 26 percent of persons will need some form of mental health treatment in any given year, so that it is not rare for people to need help.
Police Chief Jim Akagi described the sequence of events in Newton, Conn., and how the school “did everything right,” and yet the gunman was able to shoot his way into the building. He indicated that there is more needed in preventing a similar tragedy than more police officers.
The message from the mental health representatives at the meeting was that the public itself needs to be committed to doing what it can to recognize when friends, or neighbors, or family are struggling with mental and emotional issues, to the point of offering to accompany them in seeking help and to know what resources are available.
The public need also to understand how important the way they treat people in everyday life is, especially how they treat children. This can make a difference in children’s view of themselves and how well they can succeed and take their place in society.
At the end of the program, there was a place on the evaluation form for suggestions for future meetings. I expect both the Police Department and Ridgeview would welcome ideas from others as well as those who attended. Mine would be understanding the effects of bullying, both for the person who bullies, as well as the person bullied and how this is related to mental health.
The Oak Ridge Police Department and Ridgeview and all the supporting organizations who had representatives and information available on Monday are truly to be congratulated for giving the community a chance to gather to discuss these things, which probably many of us had rather not take a look at. But getting over that initial threshold of not admitting a problem and then finding ways to address it is a beneficial thing for the community and for us as individuals.
Virginia M. Jones