Wisconsin schools and school districts—including all those in the Tri-County News area—have received additional funds for school safety programs in recent months, and more money may be on the way.
It is encouraging to see that many of those schools are directing some of those funds toward the one thing which might stand the best chance of keeping students safe—mental health programs.
To be sure, a lot of money also is being spent on equipment such as more secure entry ways and security camera systems. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, and schools have made great improvements over the years in the physical security of their facilities.
In many of the tragic incidents in this country over the years, however, the threat has not been from people coming into the building from the outside but from someone who is already inside the building. Whether it is a student in a school or an employee in a business as Wisconsin witnessed just last week, the one common denominator is that the person is suffering from a mental health issue.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that the start of many mental health conditions most often occurs in adolescence. Half of the individuals living with mental illness experience onset by the age of 14, and that number jumps to 75 percent by 24.
One in five youths live with a mental health condition, NAMI officials said, but less than half of these individuals receive needed services. Undiagnosed, untreated or inadequately treated mental health conditions can affect a student’s ability to learn, grow, and develop. In extreme circumstances, those conditions can lead to tragic incidents—and those circumstances come together all too often in the world today.
Just as all the cameras and door locks on the planet will not be able to guarantee a person’s safety, neither will mental health programs cure every ill. It simply stands to reason, however, that the more attention is paid to mental health programs, the greater the safety net will be to catch people before they fall into a place which winds up tragic for them and others.
—Mark Sherry