As a busy sunny Monday morning began to unfold in San Bernardino City Unified School District, little did the residents ever imagine that tragedy would befall their city once again, within a span of 15 months. The date, April 10, 2017, would go down in the city’s history as a dark day.
As fate would have it, 53-year-old Cedric Anderson, an African-American of Riverside, got up that day ready to commit a ghastly crime. Craftily concealing a large caliber revolver, he headed to the North Park Elementary School on 5378 North H Street and reached there shortly before 10:30 a.m., with a deadly mission. Complying with routine procedures, he checked in at the front office, saying that he would like to hand over something to his wife Karen Elaine Smith, the lead teacher for students with special needs between first and fourth grades.
Taking advantage of the absence of metal detectors, Anderson managed to dodge the school authorities who didn’t even have the slightest suspicion that he was carrying a firearm. He entered the special education classroom where Smith was busy teaching 15 students, along with two adult teaching assistants. And then, without uttering a word, he opened fire at his wife, killing her on the spot. He also injured two students standing behind Smith, before killing himself.
The two students, 8-year-old Jonathan Martinez, and a 9-year-old boy, were airlifted by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where Martinez succumbed to his injuries. According to hospital authorities, the second child is now in a relatively stable condition. According to San Bernardino Police Chief Jarron Burguan, Anderson and Smith had been married for several months and were separated for the last one month. Moreover, Anderson had a criminal background of possession of firearms, domestic violence and most likely drug charges before his turbulent marriage to Karen.
In the wake of the shooting, several students of the school were evacuated to a secure area by the police. The anxious parents had to wait long hours before they were reunited with their children. “It was every parent’s worst nightmare,” said a terrified mother whose 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter attend the North Park Elementary School.
In recent years, gun violence in schools across the United States has seen a steady rise. A study conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety, an American nonprofit organization, says that between 2013 and 2016, there have been around 160 incidents of fatal as well as non-fatal gun violence, gun-related suicides and unintentional shootings in schools, colleges and universities nationwide.
Relationship between gun violence, mental health and drug use
Research indicates that most incidents of gun violence in the recent years were perpetrated by people who should have been denied access to firearms in the first place. A 2015 joint study conducted by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the University of Eastern Finland says that the use of certain psychotropic drugs could heighten the risk of homicide. During the course of the study, researchers analyzed the pre-crime use of drugs of individuals convicted of a homicide in Finland between 2003 and 2011. Findings showed that abuse of painkillers and tranquilizing benzodiazepines could affect the central nervous system putting an individual at risk of committing a homicide. In many cases, scientists discovered that prolonged use of benzodiazepines and painkillers among people with a history of substance use disorder can weaken impulse control and affect emotional processing.
A majority of Americans, including those who own firearms, believe that the government needs to take sufficient measures to prevent such tragic mishaps from occurring in the future. There is no doubt that an appropriate legislation can fix the loopholes in the country’s gun laws but there are also innumerable pressing factors, which can be addressed only through expanding professional mental and behavioral health treatments as well as drug addiction treatments to the badly affected.
Mental illness or addiction to drugs is not something to be swept under the carpet or something to shy away from. If not treated early, the condition can aggravate with time and pose a greater threat by bringing in more complications. Reasons to invest in a trusted professional treatment are summed below:
- Every doctor doesn’t specialize in mental health or substance use disorder: Connecting with the appropriate expert is the first step to prepare a systematic and effective treatment plan. A general physician can never be a replacement.
- Only experts can identify the root cause: A professionally qualified and experienced expert is the best person to recognize the external symptoms, their effect on an individual and suggest the most suitable treatment.
- Only professionals can instill hope: An expert’s opinion can be highly effective and motivating, because they are not only optimistic but also reassuring, compassionate and always ready to lend an attentive ear apart from the fact that they can be the only ones who can treat the ailment effectively through a proper diagnosis.
Certain mental illnesses such as depression cannot be detected by any pathological test because it is a diagnosis of observation. Creating awareness of the warning signs can go a long way in combating the malaise. They are best described as “surviving in a black hole” or a constant feeling of “imminent doom.” It is certainly more than normal sadness which drastically affects the quality of life of an individual. Moreover, instead of seeking professional help, many individuals in a bid to self-medicate often resort to mind-altering substances, which may further exacerbate the existing mental condition leading to dangerous consequences.
Road to recovery
Despite the availability of several effective treatments, the stigma of being branded as a weak person prevents many from overcoming mental illness through professional help. However, the help and support of family members go a long way in reducing the stigma associated with the illness.
Knowing how to deal with mental illness on the same lines as in the case of other chronic diseases, which demand a thorough mental health diagnosis, regular check-ups and monitoring of treatment adherence increases chances of recovery. Additionally, sufficient sleep, good nutrition and regular exercise further strengthen the desire to overcome mental depression.
Sovereign Health provides treatments for all kinds of mental health disorders and drug addiction as well as any underlying health condition. Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California offers a variety of customized mental health treatment and drug addiction treatment programs suited to treat the person holistically. Patients can opt for individual and group psychotherapy, or alternative therapeutic activities to regain control of their lives.
Whether you wish to know how to overcome mental illness or are looking for mental illness treatment centers in California or at a place closer home, we have facilities in all major places in the country. Our residential mental health facilities in California are among the best in the nation. Call at our 24/7 helpline number (866) 819-0427 or chat online to know about the causes of mental disorders such as depression/anxiety and most effective recovery programs to treat them at the earliest.