A school custodian's description of 'Stop the Bleed' training shows where gun culture has led us

David Spain, MD, Chief of Trauma at Stanford Health Care teaching 17-year-old Sequoia High School student Alex Rojo how to stop bleeds on mannequin

I was teaching in a public high school classroom the day that two heavily armed students walked into Columbine High School in Colorado and shot 36 people, killing 15 of them. My students and I watched in horror as aerial news footage showed blood-splattered students fleeing the building. I looked around at the 15 and 16-year-olds under my supervision, watching a piece of their innocence shatter.

The thought of preparing for such terror ourselves didn't cross our minds, though. It was a terrible tragedy, but it was a fluke. A one-off. An anomaly.

Then came Red Lake, Virginia Tech, Marysville, Umpqua, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Santa Fe, and more.

"School shootings" have become a thing—a distinctly American phenomenon. After every single one, the U.S. has exploded into debates over guns and rights and what should be done. And after every single one—even after 20 six- and seven-year-olds were shot to death in their classrooms—federal gun legislation has never gotten off the ground.


Instead, we somehow accept that children being gunned down at school is the price we pay for freedom. So we prepare for it. We train for it. We drill for it.

RELATED: Dear America: Kids doing active-shooter drills is not normal.

Preparation may sound like a smart, sound thing to do, but seeing and hearing what that actually looks like within the walls of America's schools should give us all serious pause.

A school custodian from Texas shared his experience with a 'Stop the Bleed' training he had to go through at his school, and it's absolutely heartbreaking.

Jason Hurt wrote on Facebook:

"Today I was required to attend CPR and first aid training as part of the beginning of the new school year, which I am more than happy to do. It's good to have knowledgeable folks around in the school who can be there in case of a medical emergency, and through scouting as a kid and as a unit leader I had some rudimentary knowledge going into it. Things are going as expected, we're doing chest compressions on dummies, watching videos about various situations, it was a little boring at times honestly, but informative.

Then we get to the last hour. It's a new program called "Stop the Bleed" and it's training on how to administer first aid to victims of a mass shooting in the school. So there I am with the school secretary, applying tourniquets, packing gauze into the simulated bullet wounds of a prosthetic limb, applying pressure and wrapping ace bandages. I'm being told these children and teachers will be spurting blood, screaming, writhing, and dying. I'm given pointers about how not to store the tourniquets together because the Velcro will get entangled, but not to put them in individual plastic bags either because when your hands are slippery with blood, you can't get it open and in the moment you'll use your mouth and get blood in your mouth.

I'm a f'ing custodian learning how to perform combat mass casualty triage to children without morphine. I'm learning the difference between what a 9mm entry and exit wound looks like compared to the complete annihilation of what an AR15 or AK can do. This is what our country has accepted as the new normal.

After Sandy Hook, nothing happened, and these shootings keep on happening, and the people who are infatuated with guns and weapons of war would rather I be trained as a Vietnam style medic, than to create a society where I can just wax floors and fix broken desks. I'm sickened, I'm rocked to my core. This is unacceptable and it's wrong. #ThisIsAmerica"

Seriously, America. Is this really how we want to live? Is this what "the land of the free" looks like? Because it sure as hell doesn't feel like freedom when we have custodians and school secretaries practicing treating gunshot wounds on schoolchildren.

RELATED: The American Psychological Association says bigotry and gun laws are to blame for mass shootings, not 'mental illness'

As an interesting side note, Hurt added a comment to his post explaining how his Christian faith actually influences his decision not to own a gun for self-protection. It's a refreshing perspective that often gets lost in the shuffle of America's tendency to place people into two distinct ideologies, and a reminder that one political wing does not carry the keys to Christianity. He wrote:

"The only thing I would like to add is that my belief system is based in Christianity. It's the foundation that guides me to never own a gun for the use of hurting or killing another living thing. I respect hunters, there is a problem with feral hogs rooting up farmers fields, coyotes harming livestock, deer overpopulation etc. I've enjoyed shooting paper targets and bottles off of fenceposts before and it's fun to use a bolt action .22 with a 4x scope to work on aim. But my beliefs are from the teachings of Jesus Christ who clearly said, the old law was an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, but it is replaced with a new law which is to love your neighbor. Jesus specifically said if someone takes your coat from you, give him also your shirt, so I clearly don't need a gun to protect my possessions. Let them be taken. Jesus clearly said if someone hits you in the face, turn the other cheek, and then he backed it up with his actions. He had the power of a billion nuclear warheads in his pinky finger alone and did not return harm to the Roman soldiers who beat him, or put a crown of thorns on his head, nailed him to a cross, or stabbed his side with a spear. I am called to be Christ-like as a Christian, and I don't think he would be packing heat if he were present in human form today. So I won't either. Americans are so caught up with wearing Christianity as a badge of honor, but I don't see his teachings a lot of times in their works. Instead we amplify the old law He replaced and say a bullet for an eye, a bullet for a tooth."

Well said, Mr. Hurt. When we place more value on guns than on children's lives, we are a society that has completely lost its way.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

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Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

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“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

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Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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