I have spoken to a number of schools in the Pleasant Hill, Concord and Walnut Creek area about showing the documentary, The Mask You Live in, and about providing anti-violence and anti-gang education. The common response I receive is, “we don’t have those problems here.” Well tonight in an upscale neighborhood in Concord an 8 year old boy was shot in a drive by shooting. The boy is currently being treated at Children’s Hospital, Oakland. Unfortunately, this proves my point. We do have these issues in Pleasant Hill, Concord and Walnut Creek.
I hear very often from teenagers and kids in middle school that they need to take a weapon with them to school or when they are downtown for protection. They tell me they are afraid of getting jumped. When I point out that if they have a weapon, such as a knife, with them at school or downtown that they can be arrested, they respond that is a risk I’m going to have to take. If I say that by having a weapon they are increasing the odds that they will be hurt, I hear, “if I don’t have one I will get hurt any way. So what’s the difference?”
What is the difference? We have 6th graders willing to take a chance of getting killed because they believe the odds are high enough that they will be severely hurt by someone taking the chance of being killed is not a big risk. What are we doing to help are kids? Nothing, because we don’t live in Oakland or Richmond.
We need to wake up. The shooting tonight is not the first one. A few years ago a teenager was shot in Danville standing outside his front door. There are many kids who regularly carry knives to school or with them to downtown Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill. These are not black teenagers or Mexican teenagers. These are Caucasian teenagers from families that make well over One hundred thousand dollars a year. It could be your son or daughter, you are saving. Yes girls are carrying weapons too.
What do we do? First we stop hiding behind a stereotype. These problems do not just exist in East Oakland, Richmond and Pittsburg. We need to admit that these issues do exist in Pleasant Hill, Concord, Walnut Creek, Lafayette and Danville. No one is immune from these issues any more. The next thing we need to do is to start to deal with the issues facing our teenagers. Drug overdose, violence, such as shootings, and suicide are at an epidemic rate in teenagers. These are the primary ways teenagers are dying today. They have a better chance of dealing with cancer than they do with these other issues.
Therefore, we need to educate ourselves. Ask your schools or churches to get a copy of The Mask You Live In and watch it. Ask professionals to come speak to your parent groups about these issues and how to help your teenagers. We have two fantastic groups which started in the Bay Area and are respected world wide right here. One is Challenge Day and the other is Alive and Free. We cannot help our teens until we are aware of these issues. Teenagers want the help too. They are tired of living in fear and they are beginning to believe that no one cares this is why they are taking matters into their own hands.
Show them you care by doing something to educate yourself and stop this cycle of violence and abuse teenagers are living with daily. Also I am on the national Alive & Free Board and I am available to work with teenagers and parents. I am one of the few therapists who runs an anger management group for teenage boys in this are and we deal with all these issues. In fact, I had just decided yesterday to start another group. If you have questions, contact my office.
This may sound scary, but if we all work together we can help our teenagers and ourselves.
Dr. Michael Rubino is an expert in this area and has been works with teenagers and these issues for over 18 years. For more information on Dr. Rubino or his private practice groups visit his website http://www.rcs-ca.com, his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.