Once again, the nation is struggling with needless loss and death. With so many school shootings, and other shootings, our country is struggling to get a handle on something that we can’t see and don’t fully understand. When did it become acceptable to hurt so many people? On the other hand, when did it become acceptable to not help those in need? Mental health issues aren’t easy to see at times, and people are least likely to admit when they are struggling with depression and anxiety. I believe that people who hurt others, hurt as well. That’s why, again, we need to look at mental health services in this country.
I have been working in the mental health and social work field now for about 25 years. When I started working in the foster care arena, I saw so many kids that were hurt and struggling. Kids with attachment disorder were causing problems in placements and even the professionals didn’t know what they needed or how to help them. The children didn’t trust others, didn’t care, and didn’t display any empathy. I believe that is where mass shooters come from. They lack empathy for others, and can’t identify with their victims. They just don’t care who they hurt or how. There is a significant personality flaw associated with this kind of behavior, but can you catch it before it causes pain.
Working with someone that is hurting takes time and patience. It takes an understanding of detachment and how that effects decisions and choices. When a child grows up feeling unloved, or their childhood included trauma or loss, things happen to them. Some overcome and develop an attachment to someone, but others struggle for life with attachment, to anyone. I have been involved with cases where children tried to kill other children. I have been involved with sexual abuse cases, where a child raped other children after what happened to them. Regardless of why someone is hurting, they need help. They need to be identified, evaluated, contained and provided with support.
Later in life, things can happen to spark anger and even a psychotic break. That can bring about the loss of empathy and can cause someone to disconnect from the community. Those are also people who need help. What makes this harder, however, is as an adult, you have choices. You can withdraw from society if you feel the need, but I would hope that someone would notice and reach out. Pay attention if you know someone who chose to withdraw.
It’s no longer okay to just let people withdraw. It no longer okay to alienate people who are hurting without evaluating their mental health. Unfortunately, we can’t make people get evaluated without taking some of their rights away, but it’s time for legislation that would allow for courts to order evaluations based on things people say, do and post on social media. It’s won’t stop everything, but if it can save just one person, isn’t it worth it?
This is a simple answer to a very complex problem, but there needs to be something. I’m afraid to send my kids to school. I kiss them goodbye each morning, but it’s becoming more of a reality that it might be the last time I see them. We need to look at this complex problem, and begin to help those people who are hurting, that turn that hurt into anger and take the lives of innocent people. As a parent, a person, an American, and therapist, it’s time to care. We all deserve to be happy, for life, but we also have an obligation to help others who need help.