Columbine 15 Years Later…Lessons Learned for Parents & Teachers…

Dylan Klebold, right, and Eric Harris are shown in the Columbine High School cafeteria on the day they killed 12 students and one teacher before killing themselves on April 20, 1999. REUTERS

Columbine 15 Years Later…Newsweek, BY  ON 9/25/14 AT 10:47 AM

“A Pew Research Center report in April 2000 found that shortly after the shootings occurred 85 percent of Americans said it was the parents’ responsibility to prevent potential perpetrators from going on shooting rampages like the one at Columbine. Nine percent thought it was the school’s responsibility.”


At the center of what we know today after so many horrific and tragic mass shootings in schools over the years, is parents, teachers, and mentors can do more to prevent these terrible events with increased mental health awareness.  The stigma of mental health often keeps parents and loved ones, including teachers, and mentors thinking and saying, “this child is demonstrating typical and normal behaviors.”  Be careful, this rationalization could be dangerous and life threatening!  Good rule is to take a second look and listen, learn much more about mental health 1st aid and trauma informed care.

Susan Klebold plans to confront the “indescribable grief and shame” she has experienced since the shootings in her new book, “Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy,” by Sue Kiebold.

Sue Kiebold, Author and Trauma Survivor

Following is an excerpt from my new workbook project, “I Worry About the Kids,” designed for parents, teachers, and mentors.

Mental Health and the “Trauma Informed Care” Solution…How does it work?

By Steve Sparks


Mental Health: Redirecting from Law Enforcement to Social Programs… A Trauma Informed Response that saves lives…  Quote from this link…

“CAHOOTS was formed in 1989 as a collaborative project of White Bird Clinic and the city of Eugene public safety system to help address the needs of marginalized and alienated populations, specifically the homeless and those suffering from addiction or severe and persistent mental illness. Each team consists of a certified medic and a trained mental health crisis worker.”


The 90th Annual League of Oregon Cities Conference in Bend, Oregon

I was honored to represent the City of Depoe Bay at the 90th Annual League of Oregon Cities Conference in Bend, Oregon.  This was one of the most robust learning opportunities for me since being elected City Councilor, Depoe Bay, Oregon.  The focus of the conference was to show elected and non-elected officials from city government how to use resources effectively to build a 21st Century sustainable community.  I write about the entire conference in in separate report in a pdf format with rich hyperlink references, which can be requested from or contact

Much of the discussion during the Mental Health concurrent session referenced in this link, was about the need for “Trauma Informed Care” and different levels of response so that we are NOT sending citizens with mental health challenges directly to jail, and potentially making matters much worse.  We are learning that there are essentially three levels of care evolving, and these include:  1.  Education and Mental Health 1st Aid.  2.  The “Cahoots” model in Eugene, Oregon, to help address the needs of marginalized and alienated populations.  3.  Finally, the 911 Public Safety Emergency response, where it is apparent that lives are in danger.  The three levels work collaboratively and successfully in many communities right now.

Check out this excellent reference link with a powerful video clip…What is “Trauma Informed Care?”

Lara Kain Become a fan Senior director of Transform Schools, LAEP

Trauma Informed Schools–An Essential for Student & Staff Success

“In my experience, plus the 30 years my colleagues have worked in public schools, we have learned that student misbehavior and “acting out” are often indicators of trauma. Poverty, sexual abuse, domestic violence, parental drug use, incarceration, or mental illness are just some of the issues that contribute to traumatic experiences that have a profound impact on a child’s developing brain and body. Through our team’s professional experiences, and research supports our findings, we have found that children living in poor neighborhoods are more likely to suffer traumatic incidents, such as witnessing or being the victims of violence. They also struggle with pernicious daily stressors, including food or housing insecurity, living in overcrowded households with overworked or underemployed, and stressed-out parents.”


From my own experience as a trauma survivor, non-fiction author and blogger related to post trauma recovery, it is the early life of children during the years up to age 6, when we can have the most impact in helping the fabric of our society heal and mitigate the painful symptoms and damage of the effects of severe trauma, including life long mental health implications.  But we must stop the stigma of mental health…“Mental Health and Stigma” by Graham C. L. Davey, PhD.  The consequences of long term stigma and lack of awareness in our culture is life threatening and terribly dangerous as we have observed too many times over the years, including last week in Roseburg, Oregon when 9 innocent students and educators were killed at Umpqua Community College.  Many others sustained severe injuries, and will no doubt suffer from post traumatic stress and need extended treatment to recover.

As a society we continue to be at risk at 1000’s of soft targets, including schools, movie theaters, open spaces, and in toxic homes, where mentally challenged and potentially dangerous citizens will hurt or kill innocent people.  We can change this pattern going forward and some progress is apparent; but we must be more vigilant, compassionate, and empathetic as a society.  We must talk about mental health in our schools, institutions of learning, and public places.  We must be aggressive in teaching others mental health 1st aid, and trauma informed care.  If we don’t become more serious and have the will to mitigate and treat the symptoms of mental health behaviors early, we stand by and wait for the next mass shooting or tragedy.  Mental Health: “Can’t we do better?”  I know we can!

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1&2.  click the highlighted text for my author page…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate




Mental Health Awareness Month of May… Take advantage of Mental Health First Aid training in your local community…


May is Mental Heath Awareness Month…  Quote from this website…

For more than 60 years, May has been nationally recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month.

“Mental wellness is essential for peak cognitive and physical performance and ensures the readiness of our service members. This month the Military Health System (MHS) focuses on the mental wellness of service members, their families, retirees, and DoD civilians. We will highlight the tools and resources available for the prevention and treatment of the DoD community’s overall mental wellness.”


I am pleased to share that Mental Health First Aid training has arrived in Lincoln County Oregon!  I was happy to take the lead to bring the Mental Health 1st Aid training to our City of Depoe Bay, Oregon with the help of Lincoln County Health & Human Services.  We are scheduling an overview introduction to the Depoe Bay City Council, and to the Neighbors for Kids (NFK) Board of Directors during this month.  Near future training for selected staff in both organizations will be schedule.  Following are a few highlights of the training quoted from the website…


Mental Health First Aid

is an in-person training that teaches you how to help people developing a mental illness or in a crisis.

Mental Health First Aid teaches you:

  •  Signs of addictions and mental illnesses
  •  5-step action plan to assess a situation and help 
  •  Impact of mental and substance use disorders
  •  Local resources and where to turn for help

The State of Oregon is making mental health a top priority going forward with a campaign  slogan, “Can’t We Do More?”  It is the responsibility of local and county government, private, and public leadership to take advantage of this training.  Lincoln County Mental Health offers the availability of two highly trained staff members to conduct training on a selected basis.  I have written previously in this blog about the need to do more in rural communities for mental health awareness... click on highlighted text for more…

You can make a difference during the month of May and all year by taking a look at the Mental Health First Aid program for your own needs as a business, school or public service organization.  Please review the references and resources available and take action.  Mental Health 1st Aid is just as critical as getting training for first-aid best practices in general.  Lives are saved through a higher level of awareness of all health and wellness challenges in local communities everywhere.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1…  Click highlighted text for my author page…

Vice Chair, Neighbors for Kids & Depoe Bay City Councilor



State of the Union in Mental Health and Addiction Live Webcast…and local initiatives…

The State of Mental Health in America Webcast…  Click highlighted text…

Kennedy Forum…State of the Union in Mental Health & Addiction…  Click on the highlighted text

“Just as President Kennedy rallied the nation to dream big and set audacious goals 50 years ago, The Kennedy Forum seeks to set a new standard for the future of health care in the United States.

Our mission is big, and the stakes are clear. We seek to unite the health care system, and rally the mental health community around a common set of principles: Fully implement the 2008 parity law, bring business leaders and government agencies together to eliminate issues of stigma, work with providers to guarantee equal access to care, ensure that policymakers have the tools they need to craft better policy, and give consumers a way to understand their rights.”



Mental Health is one of the State of Oregon’s key legislative initiatives for 2015.  League of Oregon Cities Local Focus (click this site) magazine for December 2014 is dedicated to mental health…”can’t we do better?” On the agenda for our City of Depoe Bay Council Meeting on February 3rd is Mental Health…to start this important conversation in our rural community on the Central Oregon Coast.  Communities everywhere are getting on the same page now and taking action…to find better ways to meet mental health challenges and improve services at the local level.  Following is a summary of the key issues we are addressing in our communities…

December 2014On the Cover…Mental Health: Can’t we do better?

  • It’s Time to Bend the Trend
  • Forest Grove – Mental Health Crisis Straining Police Resources
  • Wallowa County – Isolation Impedes Proper Response, Care
  • Portland and Project Respond: A 22-Year Partnership
  • Boardman – Crisis Care in a Small Community
  • Bend – Trying to Keep Pace in Deschutes County
  • Jail Diversion: Better for Cities, Better for Counties, Better for Patients
  • Mental Health Services: How We Can Do More

Please take the time to catch up on the State of Mental Health in America from the Kennedy Forum webcast.  Take a look at the Local Focus December 2014 magazine and learn more about specific challenges and opportunities for change in Oregon.  I will be reporting on the progress we are making in Depoe Bay, Oregon going forward.

Mental Health will be a high priority for me as city councilor during my 4 year term.  Our community will begin to seriously assess its needs and begin to collaborate with public private partnerships along with federal, state, and country resources to build a stronger foundation for mental health crisis treatment and referral services.  Join your neighbors in supporting a stronger Mental Health agenda for your community.  We can do better!

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1…  Click on the highlighted text for my author page…

Mental Health…We can do more in rural communities!

League of Oregon Cities…Local Focus, December 2014


“Mental Health…Can’t we do better?”  League of Oregon Cities, Local Focus December 2014…Quote from page 14, It’s Time to Bend the Trend by Cherryl Ramirez

Contrary to those with other chronic conditions like diabetes
and heart disease, people with chronic mental health and substance
use disorders have been criminalized. The difference is,
in part, that people with untreated mental illness may act in
ways that seem frightening or threatening to the general public.
According to the National GAINS Technical Assistance
and Policy Analysis (TAPA) Center for jail diversion, “when
effective treatment is available, people with mental disorders
and without substance use problems present no greater risk to
the community than people in the general population.”


This is my first posting as a newly elected Depoe Bay, Oregon, City Councilor.  It is fitting and timely to use the League of Oregon Cities Local Focus publication, entitled Mental Health, Can’t we do better?  as a reference.

I attended my first workshop in Manzanita, Oregon, this last week to receive training as a newly elected official.  The training was very valuable as I hit the ground running.  A big picture view of Oregon legislative priorities for 2015 was presented to help focus on the larger issues of our great State of Oregon, including mental health.

As a new Depoe Bay, Oregon City Councilor with a personal interest in mental health awareness. I am putting a special focus on this important topic during my term in office.  Following are some of the actions we are taking in Oregon and in local communities like Depoe Bay to do more in providing improved mental health services.

Quote from page 29 of the referenced LOC Local Focus…
 • Preventative mental health care in the form of “drop-in”
services should be available to all Oregonians regardless
of where they live.
The League believes that access to urgent care for mental
health will allow those suffering from an illness or condition
to be triaged and receive immediate treatment or
where appropriate, referrals for treatment. This will avert
unnecessary, unhealthful and sometimes tragic interactions
with law enforcement personnel.
• Proactive, mobile crisis intervention should be available
The mobile crisis intervention approach has reduced
negative encounters between police and the mentally ill.
Resources should be provided so such services are available
throughout the state.
• Every police officer in the state of Oregon should have
access to training in how to respond to a mental health
The state should provide public safety personnel with access
to instructions from mental health professionals that
would equip officers with skills to respond in a way that
de-escalates conflict and helps the affected individual and
their family receive appropriate care.
• The number of regional residential mental health facilities
should be expanded.
Jail should not be the only option to secure an individual
experiencing a mental health crisis. Safe and secure mental
health care beds will allow those in need to avoid jail,
which could worsen their condition.

It is an honor for me to serve the citizens of greater Depoe Bay, Oregon for the next 4 years.  As a rural community we have many challenges in community building and in sustaining the precious legacy of our town.  We are also focused on economic development and providing state of the art infrastructure utilities and services. 

In addition to my regular blog postings on the topic of Children and Families in Life After Trauma, I will be providing updates on more global mental health issues related to rural communities.  I am grateful for the support of my community of friends, followers, and family who read this blog.  Please share your comments at the end of this posting.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…  Click the highlighted text for my author page…



The Tragic Loss of Little London McCabe is a Shocking Reminder…We must do more to help children and families in crisis!

6 year old London McCabe loved hats and his Dad.. Playing with his toy giraffe last November was a joy…
Jillian McCabe calmly threw her young son, London, over the Yaquina Bridge to his tragic death…Newport, Oregon…

 Community Morns Little London McCabe’s Tragic Death… Quote from this website news report from the Newport News Times…

Blogs highlighted McCabe family struggles

Modified: Wednesday, Nov 5th, 2014

“NEWPORT — In the year leading up to the death of a 6-year-old Newport boy, allegedly thrown from Yaquina Bay Bridge by his own mother, online sites documented a family plagued by hardships, trying to make it by.

Little London McCabe was autistic, and his father, Matt McCabe, in therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS).”


Our local community and the world, according to news reports around the globe, are shocked by the tragic loss of a beautiful 6 year old boy (pictured above), London McCabe, who was loved and adored by his family.  This especially hit home at Neighbors for Kids in Depoe Bay, Oregon where we take great care and discipline to make a difference for children and families in an effort to prevent this kind of tragedy.  We practice vigilance as a high priority and devote additional time to our kids with special needs, including working with parents so that while children are in our care they receive extra love and attention. All the schools and numerous other public and private agencies strive to provide the best support for children and families, who are challenged and stressed each and every day with overwhelming problems with economic survival and special needs, including mental health issues.One of the more recent programs offered to help improve community response to mental health challenges is Mental Health First Aid…  Click on the highlighted text and learn more…  Following is a quote from this website.

“Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches you how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The training helps you identify, understand, and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses.”

The McCabe family is a tragic example of what can go wrong, really wrong, if we miss a step in care giving, even for a second.  A family tragedy like this can happen in any community anywhere in the world at any moment, even when we all work hard to prevent such a terrible outcome.  This is a shocking reminder that we must do more…be more vigilant as an extended community family of educators, care givers, mental health professionals, local government, and volunteers, especially working more closely with parents.  There will always be a risk that a tragedy will happen.  But when it does, we should talk to ourselves and each other, review and change best practices, and make efforts to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.  As a community, we know how to do this.   We need to do it better!

Steve Sparks, Vice Chair,

Mental Health Awareness…”So many people are trying to hide something that needs to be talked about.” Brandon Marshall, wide receiver, Chicago Bears…

An estimated 590,000 mentally ill patients a year end up in a defacto system of mental health care, including jails and prisons, the streets, and homeless shelters where suicide is a high risk. Click graphic for a larger view…
The cost of treating mental illness…click graphic to expand view…As states have cut mental health funding, many have increased spending on prisons and jails, says D.J. Jaffe, executive director of, which advocates for patients with serious mental illness.

USA Today…”The Cost of Not Caring” by Liz Szabo…click here for an in-depth report…

Brandon Marshall Foundation, team up to fight stigma of mental illness…

Brandon Marshall Foundation… click here for more…

“So many people are trying to hide something that needs to be talked about, and if it’s talked about, so many lives will be saved, says Marshall, who created the Brandon Marshall Foundation to help others with mental illness.”


It is easy to say “we need to talk about mental health awareness,” but it will take decades of talking to change our culture of denial and remove the stigma from society.  Just this week several people close to me shared stories of the risk of revealing and talking about mental health challenges.  What is very similar about these and many other stories, including my own experience, is the push back and denial connected with talking about the truth and seeking treatment.  Most mental health conditions are manageable if treated effectively…sooner than later is much better…

Younger people are at the highest risk of paying a big price for revealing a standing mental health issue of any type.  Bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress, and clinical depression are high on the list of manageable mental health problems that can kill a career, stop a great opportunity in life, or even break up a loving relationship.  The worst case scenario we want to avoid is suicide.  We survivors pay the price at all ages, especially during our wage earning and career years.  I remember well in 1965 when my first career opportunity with General Telephone & Telegraph in Redondo Beach, California, was cut short of an offer to join the company because of a mental health diagnosis connected with my honorable service in the US Navy.

It was a surprise and shock to me to be told I could not be hired because my military record (DD214) showed a coded medical and mental health status that was “worrisome.”  That year of 1965 was the first time my apparent condition and diagnosis of the symptoms related to what we now know as PTSD became a reality.  From that point forward and during my entire adult life, no one else was ever told or knew.  My US Navy vocational training and skills saved the day when finally hired by the Western Union Telegraph Company.  I was very lucky to get a job that started me off in my career and gave me confidence and hope as a young man.   Although we know much more today than we did then about moral injury and PTSD, especially with soldiers returning home from hard combat duty, nothing has changed for most people who are compelled to keep their mental health challenges and treatment a secret.  And because of the stigma, the lives of sufferers, including children and families, are at risk every day.  Change is slow, but will happen someday, long after my lifetime…

I continue to be very encouraged as more well known leaders and celebrities like, Brandon Marshall, join the cause of mental health awareness.  The first step in changing the very soul of America and attitudes around the globe regarding mental health stigma and denial is awareness.  So we must talk and write about this subject, with the passion and energy that will eventually get through to future generations.  It is with our children that we will change, and someday break the cycle of pain and denial that haunts millions of survivors of traumatic life experiences and other mental health challenges that require professional treatment and healing…

Steve Sparks, Author, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1 and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story…  Click on the highlighted text for my author page…



“Mental Health First Aid Really Works!” You can become an instructor…and get certified…

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my books, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1… (Kindle $2.99), and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

“I Was Able to Save a Life” December 4, 2013


Capt. Joseph Coffey
Rhode Island

Mental Health First Aid skills can be applied anytime, anywhere, and to anyone in distress, be it a brother officer exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, an unemployed friend displaying signs of severe depression, or a teenage family member presenting evidence of

Mental Health First Aid…Quote from this link…

“Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches you how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The training helps you identify, understand, and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses.”


The mental health awareness campaign in America is really taking hold!  A “first aid” program is now available to communities everywhere.  I know this program is critically important in my rural community on the Oregon Central Coast.  All schools, non-profits, government agencies, public private partnerships, and citizens everywhere should learn about mental health first aid.  The invisible nature of mental health challenges, including moral injury and PTSD, make it even more challenging to perform first aid because we are often unable to see or understand the symptoms.  Building more understanding of the signs of mental illness will help save lives!   Early and on-going treatment is very critical in finding a path to healing. Please take the time to learn about the mental health first aid program in your community, and get the word out by sharing this blog post on your social media network.

Steve Sparks, Author, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1 and Reconciliation, A Son’s Story…