Bill Cassidy, Chris Murphy, Miana Bryant and Anna King Discuss The Impact of Gun Violence and the Pandemic on Youth Mental Health

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On May 25, Washington Post Live hosted a discussion on Youth Mental Health with Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Miana Bryant, founder of The Mental Elephant, and Anna King, president of the National Parent Teacher Association. The discussion was planned in part due to a recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General that warned the mental health of our young has been impacted by the pandemic, and also a report from the National Institute of Mental Health that revealed self-harm and suicide rates are increasing in emergency rooms across the country.


Just hours before this planned discussion, a mass shooting in Uvalde Texas left nineteen elementary school students and two teachers dead. With the country still reeling from a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY, the discussion focused on gun laws and future legislation to protect the American people.

Sen. Murphy, a strong advocate for gun safety legislation since the Sandy Hook massacre took place in his state almost 10 years ago, took to the floor of the Senate just hours after the Uvalde shooting.

“We have another Sandy Hook on our hands. What are we doing? There are more mass shootings than days in the year. Our kids are living in fear,” he said from the well of the Senate.

Trauma and Need for Mental Health Reform

Murphy said he is grieving for the families in Texas but also thinking of the families of Sandy Hook that have to relive their tragedy. He reminded listeners that in addition to those shot in these tragedies, every single child in those schools endured something horrific and will need intervention or treatment.

Mental Health and The United States

The United States does not have more mental health issues than the rest of the world. What is different, Murphy said, is our access to guns.

Small Arms Survey


New Legislation by Sen. Chris Murphy and Sen. Bill Cassidy

On May 10, the two senators introduced legislation to reauthorize the federal mental health and substance use disorder programs that were signed into law in 2016 as part of the Mental Health Reform Act. Set to expire in September, the bill is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and many other health associations.

Murphy said this bill will provide more tools to enforce the insurance company’s obligations to pay for mental health care which will help in the aftermath of shootings like in Texas and Sandy Hook.

Sen. Cassidy: Is it a Mental Health Issue, or Gun Issue… or Both?

“Sometimes there is a mental health component, but that does not matter. We still have to do our best to stop it…It almost does not matter. We have to do what is required that we can find 60 votes to keep this from happening again,” Cassidy said.

Anna King, president of the National PTA

King said the National PTA is also asking for sensible gun reform. “We’re asking for safety measures for schools. We’re asking for Congress to come up with something that will help our students and our educators in our schools to be safe. There’s so much that they’re faced with right now.”

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Miana Bryant, founder of The Mental Elephant

Bryant said it is important to make mental health less of a stigmatized topic and “discussing with your children from a young age, emotional intelligence, social cues, understanding different symptoms, understanding how your mind works definitely can kind of prepare them to understand as they get older, as they reach 10, 11 and 13 years old what different mental illnesses may look like.”

Want more? Listen to the full discussion on the Washington Post. If you are ready to take action, learn about how you can support sensible gun laws and mental health organizations.

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Susan Berger is a freelance journalist in Chicago and has written for the Washington Post, New York Times and Chicago Tribune. She was a 2021 CDC Fellow through the Association of Health Journalists, a National Press Foundation Fellow in 2019 to study vaccines and dementia.  She also has written for Health Magazine, National Post, Agence France-Presse, and CBC and Better Magazine.  Ms. Berger has appeared on the Today Show, NBC Nightly News, BBC World News, CNN, WGN-TV, WTTW-TV and on CBC Radio. Her work can be viewed at and you can follow her on Twitter @Msjournalist.

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