I ran this article a while ago, but due to the school shooting in Kentucky today, it makes sense to run it again.
Again we have another senseless shooting at a school campus, what are we going to do? What answers do we give to the parents or families of the victims that will ease their pain? What would you do if it was your child? Unfortunately, the current President is ignoring the facts that teenagers need access to mental health resources and we need gun control. An interesting point, no guns were allowed anywhere near the Republican Convention even though caring guns were legal in the state. It appears the government is selective how laws are imposed. The main point is again there is another school shooting and more deaths, when do we act and stop these killings? Also it is important to note that the ABC show 20/20 did a story about school shootings. In their story they noted the increase in school shootings is significant. The number of people killed in school shootings was more in 2017 than all of the 17 years of previous school shootings. So we have a serious problem. The sad fact is this shooting barely made the news and we are accepting school shootings as part of our daily lives.
In regards to the mental health issue, many people feel uncomfortable discussing mental health and being around people who are mentally ill and therefore the mentally ill are usually ignored. However, the number of school shootings or people shooting others in movie theaters or other public places has increased significantly. In fact, this number is increasing every year, it is not decreasing, as I noted above. Given this fact, when will we as a society act and when will we demand that our government act? Most of these killings could have been stopped if we listened to family members asking for help because they were afraid a family member might hurt others. Also a majority of these teenager shooters have provided evidence in their behavior that they were having problems and needed help.
The killings that occurred in the Santa Barbara shooting show a family crying out for help for their son and the fact that he needed help emotionally were basically ignored. The result was another senseless killing. One of the victim’s fathers made a statement “no more.” It would be nice if this were the case, but if we do not change our attitudes regarding mental health and the laws, there will be more killings. The parents called for a welfare check on their son for help. The police went to his front door and asked if he was alright, he said yes so by law they left. The boy wrote in his journal, “if they only had stepped into my apartment it would have been over.” The parents told the police he was having mental problems but because he said “I am alright”, the police did nothing and innocent people died.
I have this happen very often where parents are saying their teens need help and the teen tells me they feel suicidal. Therefore, I call the police to have the teen hospitalized. This is the legal procedure. The officers arrive and ask the teen if they feel suicidal, if the teen says no the police may leave and ignore my professional assessment that the teen is a danger to self or others and ignore what the family is saying about the teenager being a danger. They do so because this is how the law is written.
No one wants to take rights away from any one but a person who is feeling like killing themselves or others is not the person to ask “are you alright?” They know if they say yes, the police will stop their plans so of course they say no. Also police officers have not had the training that mental health professionals have had and the officers are put in an awkward position.
As I stated, the number of school shootings is up significantly and shows no signs of declining. Parents come into my office all the time concerned about their teenagers and they have a right to be. However, the teen refuses to come to therapy and the teen is too big for the parents to force them to come in for therapy. If they never come in I never hear anything that permits me to have the teen hospitalized. So we are stuck in a position were we have to sit and wait until the teen does something such as self-mutilating (Cutting), suicide or kill someone else. As a practitioner this is a terrible position to be in and for the parents it is a nightmare.
I am not sure what the right answer is for this situation. I do know that what we are doing is not working. We cannot ignore mental illness and we cannot keep pretending that teenagers in our society do deal with mental illness. Parents, mental health providers and our State Senators and Representatives need to sit down together and discuss this public health problem and we need to do it quickly. If we don’t, it is only a matter of time before their are more killings. The life you save may be your own or someone in your family.
Also we need to address gun control too. We need to make it more difficult to buy guns at a gun shop, show or via the internet. The NRA always states we can’t do anything because people have a legal right to own a gun. This is true, but they don’t need automatic weapons. The lack of gun control laws is another part of the problem of school shootings and as such events as the Las Vegas shooting. We really need to look at this problem and the number of lives be lost and decide, what will we do?
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist in Pleasant Hill who specializes in treating teenagers. Dr. Rubino has over 20 years experience treating teenagers. He has appeared on national and local television and radio shows regarding this topic. To find out more about Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website www.RCS-CA.com.