As our hearts are with the victims and their families, and our gratitude is extended to the brave officers who’s actions certainly saved many lives, it is necessary to look to the future with determination to end this terrible era where children and young adults are gunned down in their prime as they are working to create their future.
Governor Brown was right in her comments that our first priority is to aid the victims and comfort the bereaved families of those killed. I am personally grateful to our members and all the mental health practitioners who traveled to Roseburg to help. You should know that your colleagues were involved. I have heard from Dan Bristow, MD who traveled to Roseburg, that the local resources, including the Community Mental Health Alliance, have received strong support from the Oregon practitioner community. Also, individual companies, such as Umpqua Bank, who have reached out for help, have found a strong response to their requests for counselors for their employees.
After the immediate shock and need of this disaster passes, the OPPA and the APA, as professional organizations and therefore leaders in our society, must step up and address the causes of these recurring mass killings. Untreated mental illness is relevant, guns are relevant, and numerous societal issues pertain. As the echoes of the shots fired in Roseburg become quiet, we must not forget the grief we feel today, but must be motivated by it and find constructive measures to change our troubled reality.
As member organizations, we cannot move as quickly as the individuals who dedicated their efforts to help in Roseburg, but hopefully we can act powerfully and with lasting effect. You should know that currently our APA leaders are working in Washington on bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. Tim Murphy, R-PA, and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-TX, that addresses efforts at comprehensive mental health reform. You should be confident that disaster response and legislative advocacy will be prominent on the OPPA agenda, and that it has become a renewed priority for me. Rather than remain locked in a philosophical stalemate, I feel we must take an educational and pluralistic approach to this complex problem. We as psychiatrists will be in familiar territory, given our daily efforts with multi-determined issues about which there are strong and conflicted emotions, and so may be in a position to help others also move past inevitable disagreements. My hope is that as an organization of professionals dedicated to the welfare of individuals, that we can now help society move forward on this serious problem that continues to erode the wellbeing of all of us, and urge you to join me in those efforts.
Craig Zarling, MD
President, Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association