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Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - 5:11pm
EL PASO — People across the nation, including all of us here in the borderland, are devastated by the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last week. El Paso's Department of Public Health wants to remind everyone there are mental health resources available for families and children.
"This guy got in the school and he started shooting 6 and 7 year olds and he shot the teacher," said 8-year-old Savanna.
Savanna talked about the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Her mother told Savanna, her 6-year-old brother and 11-year-old sister what happened after they asked why their schools in Sunland Park were put on lockdown Friday.
"I tell my daughter and my kids what had happened. I didn't go into detail but I told her that something bad had happened in a school. That some crazy person had shot some kids in the school and that there are people who do... bad people who do bad stuff," said mother Maria Martinez.
Martinez said she did it for their safety.
"It wasn't to scare them. It was more for them to be aware of their surroundings cause sometimes we're not aware of our surroundings," said Martinez.
Mental health professionals said it's up to a parent to decide if and how they want to tell their kids about such tragic events.
"A lot of the times mental health is overlooked by a lot of us but even if we don't want to it affects us. Events such as tragic events in Connecticut can have a devastating effect on anybody who's susceptible, especially children," said Hector Ocaranza with the El Paso City-County Health Authority.
Ocaranza said parents need to be aware of what their children are exposed to.
"I know there's a lot of coverage through the media about the recent events. If they're little kids, please don't expose them to such a huge amount of information that they might not be able to understand," said Ocaranza.
After telling children, he said just listen to them and realize if they need professional help.
"Acknowledge their emotions and just be there for them. It is very important that you explain to them with clear messages and to their level of understanding as far as what happened or what is it that they need and provide that safe and security that they're looking for," said Ocaranza.
Ocaranza said if you or a loved one needs help, there are many resources available free of charge that will help you cope and grieve with such a big loss.
Here is a list of resources:
Emergence Health Network Crisis Line
915-779-1800 or 877-562-6467
Dial 2-1-1 for Information and referral to mental health resources
Disaster Distress Helpline Offers Immediate Crisis Counseling
Call 1-800-985-5990 or text "TalkWithUs" to 66746.
A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope
Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators
SAMHSA's "Coping with Violence and Traumatic Events" Web site
School Crisis Guide: Helping and Healing in a Time of Crisis
National Institute of Mental Health - free booklet "Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters: What Parents Can Do" http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/helping-children-and-adolescents-cope-with-violence-and-disasters-parents/complete-index.shtml
Public Broadcast System (PBS) Tools for talking with children about tragic stories in the media
Please visit <http://crisisresponse.promoteprevent.org/> for additional resources, or dial 2-1-1.
For more information on the programs and services offered by the City of El Paso Department of Public Health, please visit: http://home.elpasotexas.gov/health/