The MLRA Therapy Blog

Insights and ideas from the therapist team at Meghan L. Reitz and Associates.

Is My Kid the Next School Shooter?

In the field of mental health there are many shades of gray. Illness spans a continuum from minor mood problems to significant mental and emotional impairments. Through my years of practice, I have encountered a varying array of individuals who display mild to severe mental illness. I always come to the table with compassion, a listening ear, and therapeutic strategies no matter what the case. Typically in private practice, we see people who are functioning relatively well with day to day responsibilities. However, occasionally a client will cross our path that warrants some more intensive support than we can provide alone.

I am writing this blog post in the wake of children, adolescents, and young adults who "snap" and take out their perceived hurts on others in a violent manner. Grade schools, high schools, and college campuses are in the media spotlight. We hear about a student who is angered that he has never had a girlfriend or a student who has been bullied by other students, carrying out unspeakable acts of stabbing, shooting, etc. towards peers and teachers. It is no wonder that I will get the parent who asks, "Is my kid the next school shooter?"

It's something that us as parents probably do not want to face but the need to confront potential violent behavior is needed more than ever. The question is, when are kids just being kids and when is it a problem? To try to answer this burning question, I am going to list some "red flags" that should prompt parents, teachers, or any other adult person in these childrens' lives should look into professional help to assess the child's issues:

  • Significant isolation from others
  • Pre-occupation with murder, death, weapons, etc.
  • Displays consistent lack of emotion surrounding events that should inspire feelings
  • Harm to animals
  • Reckless behavior
  • Any "odd" or "out of the ordinary behavior" (if unsure, consult a counselor/social worker/psychologist)
  • Pre-occupation with how he/she has been wronged by others (consistent and frequent blame of others for how he/she is feeling)
  • Social media posts that continuously desire attention or over sharing personal information

This is by no means an exhaustive list but should help to shed some light on things that should be noted. I often tell parents and school personnel that the first line of defense is to proceed forward with individual and family therapy on an outpatient basis. This will start the ball rolling of getting a sense of what the concerns are and how significant they could be. A therapist will probably then make the next few recommendations:

  • Obtain psychological testing- this is done by a psychologist who is trained in doing assessments and testing
  • Make sure that any medical problems are ruled out- seeing the pediatrician or family doctor for a full physical can be helpful in removing medical problems as a cause of the above symptom(s)
  • Set up an appointment with a psychiatrist who can determine if medication would be helpful- psychiatrists are familiar with the newest medication and research regarding mental health and should be the only ones prescribing your child with mood stabilizers, etc.
  • Parents, other family members as needed, school personnel, etc. should gather to coordinate care and keep each other abreast of any new observations
  • Potential recommendation for hospitalization assessment- they can determine if more intensive treatment like Intensive Outpatient Programming, Partial Hospitalization Programming, or Inpatient is warranted

Are these for sure fire answers to keeping kids from doing the unthinkable? No. However, they can certainly prevent the potential for someone to go down a path of violence if he/she receives appropriate mental health care. If you feel like you or someone you know is in imminent danger, call 911. Use common sense and listen to your healthcare professionals.

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Roy wrote:
Thanks Adam, I love hearing that!! Why does erihytveng come with a camera in it these days?! You go to the grocery store and even the grapefruits have cameras in them. Can I just get a grapefruit? Ha.

Fri, July 11, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

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