Mother examines mental health impact of school shootings after losing child in Sandy Hook tragedy

Posted at 10:50 PM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-10 22:50:41-05

(WXYZ) — In tonight's 7 UpFront segment, we're taking a closer look at the impact the school shooting will have on the mental health of students and families in the wake of the Oxford high school tragedy.

Joining us to talk about is Scarlett Lewis, the founder of The Jesse Lewis Chose Love Movement, a non-profit inspired by the bravery of her six-year-old son who saved several classmates before he was killed during the Sandy Hook shootings 9 years ago.

You can see the full interview in the video player above.

Lewis tells 7 Action News she and her family have found a place of healing through service, but that the tragedy changed her life.

"The Sandy Hook tragedy happened 9 years ago as of next Tuesday and it changes absolutely everything in your life. There's never a day or a moment that goes by where you're not remembering and it's very difficult," she says.

She says the non-profit she started after the tragedy, the Jesse Lewis Chose Love Movement has at its core the mission to address the mental health problems faced by children and it's based on a message her son had written on the kitchen chalkboard.

"I understand that hurt people hurt people and I understand that if the shooter had been able to give and receive nurturing and healing love, the tragedy never would have happened," she says. "I quit my job and have dedicated my life to spreading this important message and addressing the mental health and well-being of children all throughout our country and all over the world by teaching them coping skills, how to manage their emotions, how to face difficulty. Kids have more difficulty now than they've had in a long time. Our kids are suffering, they're anxious, there's a lot going on. And we need to teach them how to have healthy relationships and how to manage their emotions, coping skills so they can face the anxiety and difficulty in their lives, and move through it, be strengthened by it, and grow through it. But they need some skills first."

Lewis says she understands what parents in Oxford are going through.

"I felt incredible empathy for those parents," she says. "I knew exactly what they were facing, the hardship of figuring out how they were going to survive without their kids and what their lives were going to look like, how they were going to be present for their other kids, and every time it happens it makes me double down on my efforts to be part of the solution and there is a solution. We don't have to live like this. This doesn't have to happen. We just need to be proactive in our approach instead of how we have been, which is reacting as each one happens."

She also has a message for the parents of the victims and the students of Oxford High School.

"It's going to take a lot of courage to face this and, especially for the victims' families, but also for the surviving kids that were in the school, for the community, I think that it's really important that you face what happened, that you don't push it aside," Lewis says. "Really important for parents to model a healthy response, that includes being emotional if that's called for. But we really need to be there for one another. I know my community really stepped up for me. It's a beautiful thing how communities can step up and be there for one another when times get tough. And, right now, I think we need that. I know Michigan, Oxford, needs that. And we need to keep that up across the country."