SAN ANTONIO (Dec. 10, 2013) — Marian Moca, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry in the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and director of the child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) in Harlingen, was in Connecticut when the Sandy Hook tragedy unfolded one year ago Dec. 14.
He had established the School Consultation Service at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in the year before that day in Newtown, and in the wake of the tragedy he and his team visited schools throughout the state, providing education about mental health, including trauma and helping children recover from it. Dr. Moca and others also spoke in the media about the psychological effects of trauma on kids, their families and communities.
“One of my goals is to continue to work on reducing and preventing any kind of violence in schools,” Dr. Moca said. “Sandy Hook is still very fresh; it is still part of the picture for our nation. We ought to learn from it and never forget it.”
He said the Sandy Hook tragedy started a national discussion about the importance of mental health early on, from childhood. “We know that this shooter as well as others had mental health issues, but we do not know whether they received the help they needed,” he said. “Many at-risk adolescents find themselves at the periphery. It is our role as a society to encourage them to talk about their problems and get timely and appropriate treatment.”
Dr. Moca, newly recruited to the Rio Grande Valley, is already working with local school districts to provide mental health programs, including the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District. (Note: To interview a district counselor, please call Shane Strubhart, listed above. Dr. Moca may be interviewed at the RAHC campus in Harlingen.)
The call is to inquire about children’s problems rather than ignoring them. Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness start by the age of 14 and three-fourths by age 24. “The good news is there is hope,” Dr. Moca said. “Whether we are parents or family members, educators or mental health professionals, we can make a difference in children’s lives. There is a critical window of opportunity during adolescence when teenagers can learn how to better their emotional health and become healthy young adults.”
Dr. Moca said he plans to develop an anti-bullying project in the Valley, in conjunction with the Health Science Center’s Med Ed Program of South Texas at the RAHC. In Connecticut, he and his team received an award from the American Psychiatric Foundation for the implementation of the “Anti-Bullying Class”, a program run by and with medical students and focused on the connection between “bullying and feelings.”
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