Recent mass shootings and other violent acts perpetrated throughout the country prompted an East Tennessee State University department to dedicate its annual conference to the study and prevention of violence.
The theme of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences’ annual medical education conference to be held Oct. 18 at Johnson City’s Millennium Centre is “Violence: Prediction, Prevention and Treatment.”
“This year, our planning committee hit on the idea of focusing on violence, and we thought it couldn’t be more timely,” Merry Miller, ETSU psychiatry professor and the conference’s activities director, said Wednesday. “We’re looking at all different aspects of violence and trying to not only focus on the victims, but also on trying to identify the perpetrators before anything happens and to get them the treatment they need.”
The conference’s 10 speakers will host lectures for physicians, nurses, therapists, medical students, public health professionals, law enforcement and school administrators.
Miller said one lecture in particular, offered by College of Nursing assistant professor Judy Rice, will be helpful to school leaders hoping to prevent school violence.
“We’re working on a program that trains school personnel to have an understanding of teenage behavior, and to help identify students who might be experiencing a mental disorder,” Rice said. “If they’re able to recognize the warning signs, then maybe they could help direct students to the appropriate treatment.”
According to Rice, one out of every five adolescents are under the effects of a mental health problem at any give time, but two-thirds are not receiving the help they need.
If teachers and administrators could recognize the warning signs of mental illness, which include changes in academic performance, the inability to cope with problems, changes in daily routines and frequent physical complaints, many tragedies in schools could be prevented, she said.
“If we could identify those students suffering from mental disorders, we could refer them to the appropriate health professionals and have a positive impact on their lives and the lives of others,” Rice said. “I think this is such an important topic, especially in light of recent events.”
Rice said her work was inspired by national tragedies and born out of her concern for her own children.
“Since Columbine, there have been more than 30 mass shootings, and so many of them have been at schools,” she said. “If we could recognize the signs early on, who knows how many could be prevented?”
For more information about the conference, including a schedule of events and registration information, visit www.etsu.edu/com/cme.