I initially wrote part of this article in August 2019, and October, 2019, but unfortunately it needs to be updated again. We have many children who are suffering with severe anxiety and refusing to go to school. They are terrified of going to school. Why would a child be terrified of going to school? Because of all the mass shootings in the United States and our government has failed to pass any sane gun laws protecting children.
These mass shootings are not stopping or slowing down either. This weekend there was a shooting in Buffalo, New York, in Orange County, California and over 30 people were shot in Chicago. Additionally, these shootings are also beginning to target populations of people. Crimes against African Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans and Transgender people have significantly increased (CDC, Gun archives). However, our society does little about this change.
The former President and many republicans appear to give their approval by not acting and comments they make about these incidents. Fox News makes negative comments about these populations and also appear to support this violence. Additionally, there are numerous groups online which are targeting young Caucasian men and are promoting false statements that Caucasian people are in danger of losing their rights.
Since the pandemic, many teenagers and young adults have been spending a great deal of time on the internet. Before we were worried about sexual predators that were on the internet and we still need to worry about them. However, now we need to worry about trolls who are looking for young men that they can convince to believe their conspiracy theories about minorities and the pandemic. They are succeeding at what they are trying to do. The 18 year old Caucasian young man who drove three hours to Buffalo, New York because it had a large population of African Americans wrote a manifesto how Caucasian people were losing their rights and he was blaming African Americans. This is not true but 10 people died today because he believed this fact. He also lived streamed the shooting on social media. Therefore, who knows how many people he terrorized with his insane act.
When Hate crimes are significantly rising in our society and because of smartphone’s and the internet is it surprising that kids and teenagers would be anxious about school or going outside? Many of these teens and kids are African Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans and are Transsexual. They can see that very little is being done to protect them so of course they are going to be anxious. Additionally, when you have most of the republicans saying things that sound like they support the idea that Caucasian people are losing their rights, it makes teenagers more anxious. I have had them comment to me about the comments people such as Representative Majorie Green and the former President make about minorities or the LGBTQ+ community, it is no surprise that they worry about their safety.
The former President said he would support sane gun laws, but then he started to say it was simply a mental health issue. By doing so he doesn’t help the issue and he reinforces the negative stigma about mental health in our country. When he refers to a mental health issue, he calls the people “sick” and states they need to be locked up. The research clears shows that people with mental health issues pose a danger to themselves by cutting or committing suicide. The research clearly shows that people with mental health issues are rarely dangerous to society. The Director of the American Psychiatric Association issued a statement stating the same information.
Mental health is not an issue with mass shootings, hate is the issue. In fact the FBI was able to arrest three men planing mass shootings. One of the men arrested issued a statement that he was planing the shooting because he hated anyone who was not white. He was also at the Charlottesville protest and stated to a reported he believed in only a nation for white people and was advocating killing anyone who was Jewish. This man is not being labeled as mental ill. He is being charged with charges related to a Hate crime. Again in order to be charged with a Hate crime you must be attacking someone because you hate them due to their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation etc. The Klu Klux Klan has held rallies and have been accused of killing people for years, but no one in the group is labeled mentally ill. The KKK is labeled as a hate group.
So when I have children coming into my office saying they are afraid of being killed at school and the mass shooter drills scare them, what do I say to them? How can I say we are doing everything we can to protect them, when our government is not doing anything. How can I say don’t worry when every day there is a mass shooting and more students are killed at a school?Children also hear things and they will know that I am lying. Most would have heard about the most recent school shooting or shooting and some may have heard that the former President refused universal background checks. For therapy to work, the children need to trust me. If I lie, they will not trust me. Again, with the statistics I cited for this year alone, how can I tell a child there is nothing to worry about.
The other issue is how do parents get children and teenagers to come to a psychotherapist’s office. Since the former President and Fox News have been stating most mass shooting are due to mental illness, teenagers don’t want to be labeled “mentally ill” because they go to therapy. Additionally, Trump has referred to the people as “sick puppies” and that they need to be “locked up in asylums.” Teenagers and children will be worried that their parents are taking them to my office to be locked up. Many teenagers need psychotherapy for mental health issues such as depression. According to the CDC, one out of five children need psychotherapy. Anxiety disorders and depression have increased significantly. Cutting is an epidemic in teenagers and children. I have children as young as 10 who self- mutilate. Also suicide was the third leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. In the last few months, the CDC changed suicide from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death. There are many children who need psychotherapy, but will be afraid of being locked up and will fight their parents about going to therapy.
Also what about the people who experienced a mass shooting, their family and friends and the first responders, their lives have been changed for ever. They are going to need years of psychotherapy to cope with their PTSD. However, besides be labeled as a victim, they are not going to want to be looked at as a “sick puppy” because they need therapy. This is what they will think and feel because of how the President and Senate have responded to mass shootings. We already have survivors of mass shootings and family members committing suicide because they cannot stand the pain. We have seen the same thing from veterans committing suicide because they did not have access or were embarrassed to seek psychotherapy. When will we learn? When will we stop demonizing mental health?
Since it appears the Republicans will not act, we need to learn from the high school students from the Parkland, Florida shooting and take action ourselves. Remember by acting you may be saving the life of your child or a loved one. Call the Senators for your state and demand sane gun laws and if they are too afraid of the NRA, you will vote against them in the next election.
Some people will say I have no right to be writing this article. However, I see and hear the kids crying daily because they are afraid of being killed or their parents being killed. I also am trained in Critical Indent Debriefing and trauma therapy. I am tired of hearing how the first responders lives are being changed and the night terrors they experience. I am not afraid of the NRA. We have a huge problem with hate and race in our Nation that must be addressed. Also we also do not have adequate mental health services in our Nation. This is why the suicide rate went from the 3rd leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for kids. Mental health issues is not causing the mass shootings! If it was we would have had the problem in the 1970s and 1980s, but we didn’t.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over twenty five years experience treating children and teenagers. He is also trained to treat victims of trauma and to do Critical Incident Debriefing. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3