A statement by Michael Sodini, Founder and President of WTTA on the Thousand Oaks shooting.

“The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%–5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don’t even realize it, because many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities.” – MentalHealth.gov

Today, we woke up to the news of another senseless tragedy. Many will be running high on emotion and will use this incident to push an agenda. We at WTTA ask that you take a moment, and breathe. Let the facts come in so we can have a civil discussion to find solutions. Our nation is so divided right now and the last thing we need to is let our emotions control our logical thinking. As a big supporter of the constitution, I believe in free speech. I ask that if you engage in a discussion in the next couple of days on this subject, you respect what the other person is saying and you work towards a civil discussion. Please be aware of your language and use your better judgment when it comes to discussing highly emotional topics such as this incident.

As the facts roll in today, one thing we know is that there are 12 people that are no longer with us and many more injured. While keeping the victims in our hearts, we need to keep in mind that after the physical wounds have healed, the trauma will still be there. It is critical that we recognize and understand this, and do all that we can to offer the help and support that these individuals, families, and loved ones need. As with many soldiers that come home from serving our country, the same goes with everyone that was there or had a loved one that was taken from them last night. Tragedy and trauma are real and they don’t discriminate…and certainly show no mercy. They don’t have an on/off switch and need to be met head on with compassion and understanding. Remember, the effects on us from last night’s event may not manifest itself for years.

WTTA will continue to put the emphasis on prevention and early intervention services and programs. It is time we work to improve our overall mental well being of all the people that make up our great nation. Like any other illness, our mental state needs to be treated in the same manner. Prevention, early identification and intervention are the key pieces to recovery.

Now is the time to work towards ending discrimination and the stigma that is put on mental illness, to address mental health long before the crisis stage. Engage in conversations with loved ones, be open to discuss topics like intervention but also cognizant of people’s civil rights. Ask yourself the tough questions as well. Understand that PTSD and the people that struggle with it rarely act violent to others. Please do not play identity politics and double down on irresponsible ideology…. especially in an emotional state. Americans – BREATHE. Sit down with your loved ones, especially your children and have the tough discussions.

Please go now and take a free mental health screening at www.WTTA.org.