Sandy Hook Promise Commends Progress of Mental Health First Aid Act

Sandy Hook Promise Commends Progress of Mental Health First Aid Act

Bipartisan act is a comprehensive, commonsense effort to help make our communities safer


Newtown, CT, Friday, March 13, 2015:

Sandy Hook Promise, a movement of almost half a million people that focuses on identifying and mitigating the causes of gun violence has commended the reintroduction of the Mental Health First Aid Act as an important step towards protecting children and communities across the United States. Sandy Hook Promise is led by several family members who lost loved ones in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. 


Mark Barden, advocacy director of Sandy Hook Promise commented: “Sandy Hook Promise has been a driving force behind the Mental Health First Aid Act since mid-2013 because we know early identification and intervention will prevent gun-related death and injury. We are grateful to Senator Ayotte, Blumenthal and co-sponsors for their leadership and conviction in reintroducing this legislation to Congress.” 


The bipartisan legislation aims to expand mental health first aid training and help the public identify, understand and address crisis situations safely. Grants would be given for mental health first aid training programs for groups including teachers, first responders, police officers, school and college administrators, veterans, and nurses, among others. The bill also calls for protocols for initiating timely referrals to mental health services and emphasizes making training available in rural areas.


Sandy Hook Promise believe that education and awareness are critical for reducing stigma as well as ensuring that safety nets are in place to help those at risk of self-harm or harm to others, and advocates for a policy and programmatic approach to preventing the causes of gun violence, including mental health and wellness, in addition to sensible solutions around gun safety and access. A 2013 report on the Sandy Hook shootings made it clear that there were failures in identifying the shooter’s mental health issues and coordinating care and intervention around those issues.


Mark Barden continued, “If this legislation and training had existed before 2012, the Sandy Hook tragedy, where my son lost his life along with 25 others, may very well have been averted. We urgently need a comprehensive approach to gun violence prevention, which includes focusing on the causes that lead a person to access a firearm with the intent of hurting themselves or someone else.”


Gun violence, especially amongst young adults, often stems from anger and fear, which can be amplified by a mental illness, though the vast majority of gun violence is not committed by the mentally ill.  Educating parents, teachers and students reduces stigma, increases transparency and stimulates intervention which saves lives.


Mark Barden explains, “Violent actions do not usually come out of the blue.  People don’t just “snap” – there are warning signs, and ways to detect them. Knowing the signs and intervening to get people help benefits everyone, but is especially important for those who may hurt themselves or others.”


Sandy Hook Promise promotes and offers Mental Health First Aid training as part of its portfolio of prevention programs to protect children and communities from gun-related death and injury. The portfolio includes tools in the areas of mental health and wellness identification and intervention, social and emotional development, community connectedness and firearm safety and access.  Sandy Hook Promise aims to give other parents and communities simple yet effective strategies that will avert future tragedies. 

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