The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health grieves with the community of Uvalde, Texas and all who are affected by the horrific act of violence at Robb Elementary School yesterday. There are no words that can be expressed for the deaths of young children as well as the trauma, grief and pain being felt by this community of Texans, all of which demands a commensurate response from us.

Sadly, we recognize that yesterday’s tragedy is the latest in a pattern of gun violence and mass death that continues to terrorize communities and undermine our security and well-being as a nation. We acknowledge the long road to healing and recovery ahead. We salute the many brave, hard-working people—teachers, counselors, law enforcement, state officials, mental health professionals, parents, and so many others—who are responding to this tragedy, attending to the survivors, and aiding in the healing process.

But while handing out praise, we shouldn’t blind ourselves to another grim reality: we could be better than this, but for a number of reasons—political expedience, the erosion of trust and unity, and plain moral cowardice—we choose not to be. It is not fair to continue to ask families and communities to show extraordinary resilience because others refuse to answer the call of leadership. We have opted for active shooter drills and fortifying schools instead of what we need: first, a preventative, public health approach to gun violence; and second, an all-fronts mobilization against the crisis of hate and hopelessness that now threatens us all.

This is why we also disagree with flattening the discussion to one of mental health. Yes, mental health matters, but U.S. citizens are not more prone to mental illness than people in countries where these tragedies are far less common. What sets us apart is the mass proliferation of guns combined with spreading hate, and our incredible refusal to treat this as the generational emergency it is. Accurate information is an important part of coping and resilience, and misplacing blame for these horrendous acts of violence hinders healing and emboldens stigma surrounding mental health.

Regarding mental health, we should also remember that the perpetrator was a youth, barely more than a child. We are in an especially fraught moment for young minds, minds that are still developing and need more from us—above all hope. It should not take a mass shooting for us to be alert to the trauma, grief and despair that blights the lives of too many young people, and that the pandemic has made worse.

As details about the Uvalde shooter’s motivations come to light it is important that one thing not be overlooked: the humanity we are seeing on display in Uvalde shows the best of what our state represents – tolerance, neighborliness, civility, and empathy. Solidarity can shore us up in times of trauma and can serve us especially well at a time like now where we might otherwise give in to despair or cynicism.

If you or someone you know needs help with coping, dial the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. For those who would like to help, here is a short list of things you can do:

  • Donate money. You can donate to the Robb School Memorial Fund through First State Bank of Uvalde. GoFundMe has set up an online hub of verified fundraisers supporting those affected by the shooting, which you can find here.
  • Donate blood. South Texas Blood & Tissue is hard at work sending blood supplies to Uvalde. To learn how you can help, visit their website.
  • Give legal aid. The San Antonio Legal Services Association has put out a call for Texas licensed attorneys to volunteer their time for Uvalde shooting survivors and families who have unmet legal needs.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network provides extensive trauma-informed resources for families. Here is a partial list:

And we can learn from those who’ve been there. Sandy Hook Promise is leading the way on community-based, proactive solutions to youth violence.