Divisiveness. Family separation. Gun violence. Racism. Bullying. Disrespect. Do these words seem as if they were pulled directly from the most recent issues of The Washington Post or the evening news? Do these words raise something in those of you who work as professional counselors or counselor educators? Are these words that you have been forced to confront either personally or professionally?
The words above may certainly be at the forefront of the latest news sources you read or view. However, we all know that what we’re reading and seeing now was fomented over many previous years, decades and centuries. The difference today is that with the advent of social media, all one needs to do is think it, type it, post it.
Let me be clear: This column is not about Republicans or Democrats. It isn’t about any one person or segment of our society. Rather, what I am asking is what we will do as a collective body to battle against the evil that comes from divisiveness, family separation, gun violence, racism, bullying, and disrespect. Each and every day, ACA members and thousands of other professional counselors are called upon to deal with how these spiteful actions are manifested in individuals and entire communities.
How many more horrendous acts must we witness before we call for actions that embrace words such as inclusion, family unification, safe communities, empathy and respect? Is it really just a pipe dream, or can groups of like-minded people who believe in a common good — despite our various political differences — join together to ensure that those in positions of power and authority understand what will no longer be tolerated?
Last month, ACA issued a statement expressing its sorrow about the senseless gun violence tragedies in Gilroy, California; Southaven, Mississippi; Dayton, Ohio; and El Paso, Texas. And then we did something else. Our statement called for other organizations in the mental and behavioral health space to join with us in working together to effect change. As I noted in last month’s column, to demonstrate that ACA understands that actions are important, we will be joining with many other mental health groups and advocates for a lobby day on Capitol Hill in a few weeks. We believe that elected officials serving in Congress need to know that everyone, regardless of political affiliation, is a potential victim of gun violence in America. Something must be done.
The words with which I started this column may be things that some people are just waking up to, but I know that professional counselors deal with these issues on a regular basis. These issues have impacted your clients, students, and communities for a very long time. This means that all of you are experts in how to combat situations that have the potential to result in destruction and death. You are the experts in how to overcome many of these concerns, so I call on you to be the best possible advocates for those with whom you work. You don’t need to march on Capitol Hill with us, but you can engage with public policymakers and other community leaders where you live and work. Let them know that you have seen the horrors of what can happen and that you are willing to use your expertise to be part of the solution.
Let’s think about how we can use the power of social media, public policy advocacy, and your amazing counselor communication skills to battle and overcome what is negatively impacting our society and those with whom you work. I would appreciate knowing what you have been doing as part of the solution and what suggestions you have for ACA. Your voice matters.