Learn how to listen to others

By: By Angela Ponivas, M.S.W. Special to The News Messenger
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When I heard about the horrific mass shooting that occurred in Connecticut, I couldn’t help but think of what might have motivated the alleged shooter, Adam Lanza.

Neighbors were interviewed, who stated, “Adam was always a bit different. He appeared troubled. He did not connect with others.”

A crime profiler was also interviewed, who stated, “These acts are not snap behaviors. They are planned, thought out and strategized. It is likely his anger, rage and resentment built up over years.”

It was noted that individuals such as Adam often indicate their desire to kill themselves or kill others, but others don’t take it seriously. Friends and family imagine that the person wouldn’t actually follow through.

Unfortunately, we will never know exactly what was going on in the mind of Adam Lanza.

However, we can learn some lessons from the statements provided by his neighbors and the crime profilers.

No. 1) Whenever a person indicates a desire to kill himself/herself or kill others, take it seriously. Be

prepared to help. There are free classes offered in the community to help first responders and others of

the community assist a suicidal person. Lighthouse’s clinical manager, Trish Gemulla, teaches these classes and can help you know and understand how to respond to a person who indicates these tendencies and desires.

No. 2) Supportive relationships are the foundation of healthy mental health. Everyone needs the company

of others to feel and be their best. Humans are social creatures with an emotional need for relationships

and positive connections to others. We’re not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation. Our social

brains crave companionship, even when experience has made us shy and distrustful of others.

Social interaction, specifically talking to someone else about your problems, can help to reduce stress. The key is to find a supportive relationship with someone who is a “good listener.”

A good listener will listen to the feelings behind your words, and won’t interrupt or judge or criticize you.

The best way to find a good listener is to be a good listener yourself. Develop a friendship with someone you can talk to regularly and then listen and support one another.

Because we are so socially attuned, input from a knowledgeable, caring professional may be needed to motivate us to do for ourselves what we are not able to do without support.

The following are some red-flag warning signs of when it is necessary to seek a caring, mental health professional:

* Inability to sleep.

* Feeling down, hopeless or helpless most of the time.

* Concentration problems that are interfering with your work or home life.

* Using nicotine, food, drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions.

* Negative or self-destructive thoughts or fears that you can’t control.

* Isolating and not connecting with others.

* Homicidal or suicidal thoughts.

The good news is that our community has a free mental-health resource in the Lighthouse Counseling & Family Resource Center.

Lighthouse was formed by leaders of the community to address mental health issues and poverty issues. Lighthouse works very closely with the Western Placer Unified School District’s psychologists and principals, identifying children who would benefit from mental-health counseling.

In many cases, we work with the child and their parents. To our knowledge, Lighthouse is the only mental health agency in Placer County that works closely with a school district and provides counseling services to the uninsured and under-insured at no cost to the client.

This is a tremendous benefit to our community, as each year more than 600 residents receive free counseling services from the Lighthouse.

If you or someone you love are in need of mental health services, then please don’t hesitate to call the Lighthouse at 645-3300.

It’s important that as individuals and as a community, we continue to be pro-active in preventing mental health issues from escalating.


Angela Ponivas, M.S.W., is the Lighthouse Counseling & Family Resource Center’s executive director. Her phone is 645-3300; address is 427 A St., Suite 400; and Web site is