Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Bad Things Happen: What Can We Do About It?

No one wants to write about bad events--we fear them.

Few want to think about bad events, but by not thinking about them we somehow may think they won't happen.

Yet bad events do happen, and we do well to do what we can to prevent them.

As I think about the murders of seventeen students in Parkland, I think about what a truly bad event this was. I ache for the families, friends, teachers, community members, and all our nation's citizens in light of these senseless and horrendous deaths.

How can we make change?

First of all, we have to recognize the size of this problem. According to a recent CDC study, about 1300 children 17 and under die via guns each year and 38% of these deaths are suicides. That's out of 73.8 million children in the United States, a country with a population of about 330,000,000 so 1 out of every 57,000 children die from gun related events. Of course even one death via guns is too many.

The Leading causes of death in the United States For ages 15-24 in this order are road traffic accidents (7,117), suicide (5,723), homicide (5,172), poisonings (4,997), and for ages 0-14 the leading causes of death are congenital abnormalities (5598), other injuries (1801), road traffic accidents (1284) and homicides (901). Drownings were also quite high (701).

What does the data tell us with regard to people 15-24? We have to continue our efforts towards safe driving, mental health/cultural supports to prevent suicide, anti-violence efforts, and alcohol/drug addiction/use prevention. We have to work harder to create optimal lives for people 15-24, lives that move them from risky, unhealthy behavior by creating positive opportunities for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness via education, recreation, and community programs and supports for good living.

For children 0-14, we have to continue efforts for pre-natal health care, safe driving, accident prevention, and nonviolent homes and environments. We also should teach every young child how to swim at an early age and support medical research to prevent and cure other areas of illness that result in early deaths.

What can we do right away?

First, we have to advocate for less guns. Without easy access to guns there will be less gun-related suicides and homicides. The data is clear that we have to reduce access to and numbers of guns.

Next, it is not natural to want to end your life. We have to look at the root causes of suicide and work to reduce and eliminate suicide by helping people have better lives. This effort should get tremendous support from our government leaders and budgets.

Bad things do happen, but when we look at the stats related to bad things, we can see many ways to mitigate the bad things.

We quickly are influenced by sensational events, slick sound bites, and exaggeration. We need to look at the data, and react accordingly by reducing guns, reducing the factors that lead to suicide, providing social emotional supports, teaching and forwarding safety education related to driving, alcohol, relationships, and safe living, supporting continued medical research, teaching children to swim, and working for safer neighborhoods and communities.

Rather than focusing on more guns, we need to focus on more dynamic, inclusive, happy, and supportive communities that elevate living for everyone. That won't eliminate bad things, but it will reduce them.

We can do better--the statistics show us a way.