When news broke about last week’s shooting in Parkland, Fla., it was unbearable to see the faces and learn the stories of the 17 innocent students and teachers who were murdered in the middle of a school day. Once again, our nation’s children were the targets of a brutal massacre. I can’t begin to imagine losing a child or classmate in such a violent rampage. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, and must be a constant fear for our young people today.
That’s why it’s so incredibly inspiring to see the teenagers of Parkland at the height of their grief yet with so much clarity and determination stand up and say enough is enough. They are using their voice and what seems like a fearlessness bigger than their years to do something that the adults in this country have been unable or unwilling to do. These kids are on a mission, with no intention of resting until our schools are safe from attack.
Providence St. Joseph Health is speaking up for the safety and well-being of our nation’s children as well. As the third largest health system in the United States, we have been working toward gun safety as part of our comprehensive advocacy agenda to create healthier communities.
Our clinicians are a driving force in asking us to take action because they see the tragic effects of gun violence, up close, every day. It has reached epidemic proportions and become a major public health issue. On a daily basis, there are an average of 92 gun deaths in this country, about two-thirds of which are suicide and a third are homicide. Think of the lives that could be saved with common sense measures that most Americans support, regardless of political affiliation.
At least two of our hospitals have served as first responders to school shootings in recent years. Just last September, our caregivers treated the victims of a mass shooting at Freeman High School south of Spokane, Wash., and in 2014, we cared for students shot at Marysville Pilchuck High School north of Seattle. Our clinicians saw the devastating impact on students, faculty, families and entire communities.
Mental, emotional, spiritual support for our youth
Mental health and wellness is another important part of our advocacy agenda and a top priority for our organization. We know how important it is for kids to have mental, emotional and social support at an early age, and we are working with our communities to make more resources available. We also know how traumatizing tragedies like this can be individually and on the collective national psyche, and believe our schools need more resources and tools to help our children cope and heal.
It’s too easy to become numb to school shootings and think that nothing can be done to stop them. But the teenagers of Parkland and all the youth getting involved in this cause are helping to make sure none of us get complacent, and Providence St. Joseph Health is committed to continuing to serve as an active voice on this issue locally and nationally. To the young people leading and joining this movement, thank you for all you are doing to restore hope, healing and wholeness to our nation.