5/26/22 - Once again, Americans endure the tragedy of gun violence

Dear colleagues,

We at IDHS are heartbroken and angered by the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, Laguna Woods, California, and just yesterday - at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. While we grieve, we also need to continue to fight to combat hate and racism, to protect and support our communities, to help each other heal, and create systems to prevent further devastation.

These atrocious acts - which, sadly, continue repeating themselves across the country, remind us of the rippling and damaging effects of ongoing gun violence - shaking our collective sense of safety when routine daily acts, like shopping for groceries, attending religious services, and sending children to school become reminders of hate and violence

I want you to know that the IDHS leadership team is sensitive to the deep trauma and fear that mass shootings can inflict on families and communities right here in Illinois. Even as we seek to hold our loved ones tighter, we want to offer some resources to obtain and connect to mental health support in this time:

  • Please review and share these links, which include many timely resources for individuals and families struggling to explain these most recent American tragedies: How to Talk to Kids About School Shootings - Child Mind Institute ; Dealing with Traumatic Events.
  • For emotional support, call the DMH Warm Line at: 1-866-359-7953 (Monday - Saturday, 8am-8pm), or text TALK to 552020 for English or HABLAR for Spanish to connect with a Call4Calm counselor. Texts to Call4Calm are followed up by phone within 24 hours. Both the Warm Line and Call4Calm are provided at no cost to consumers.
  • If you are experiencing anxiety or depression, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, or text MHA to 741741 at the Crisis Text Line. You can also visit MHAscreening.org to get screened and access tools and resources.
  • If you are a State employee, you can access employer-sponsored mental health support programs. Bargaining unit employees represented by AFSCME, have access to the AFSCME Personal Support Program. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) administered by ComPsych is available for employees not represented by AFSCME.

While authorities investigate the most recent incidents and as society holds varying perspectives about what should be done in response, we at the Illinois Department of Human Services are clear about this:

  • We stand against all forms of hate, bigotry, racism, and white supremacy.
  • We acknowledge gun violence as an ongoing, but preventable, public health crisis with a long-lasting mental health impact.
  • We reject stigmatizing mental illness by equating it with extremism and violence.

We will not stand idly by as violence impacts communities in Illinois and around the United States.

As you know, the Office of Firearm Violence Prevention is housed at IDHS. Governor Pritzker has made an unprecedented three-year, $250 million commitment to reduce gun violence in Illinois. We will continue working across every IDHS Division, and in partnership with our sister agencies, including IDPH and HFS, to fight gun violence - wherever it occurs - at its roots.

I am committed to your well-being and that of all Illinoisans. I hope that in the days ahead, policymakers and public servants can find a way to make our nation safer and less vulnerable to the scourge of gun violence. We at IDHS will continue to do our part, and we are ready, willing, and able to do more.

Grace Hou

Secretary, IDHS

Resources for School Shootings - National Childhood Traumatic Stress Network

How to Cope with Traumatic Events - JED Foundation