Saturday, December 15, 2012

Someone's Child

My heart is heavy with the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, CT, yesterday.

What is weighing me down more is that I have felt this heaviness before, and too often.

How quickly we forget.

The Columbine shooting of 1999 resulted in new security measures for schools across the United States. Children had to die for our society to realize that not only are our schools places of education, but they should be places of safety.

We as parents entrust our children to our schools, expecting them to come home at the end of the day.

We had so taken that for granted that we were shocked when one day it didn't happen.

Social media blew up yesterday as the news of what happened in Newtown, CT, was slowly unveiled in snippets and images throughout the day.

Anger. Sadness. Outrage. Frustration.

Now the question is: Will those emotions become action? If so, what kind of action? Tightened security measures? Tightened gun control?

May I make a suggestion?

Every time I hear of these kinds of cases, not just shootings but crimes of brutal torture and murder, I not only think of the victims of the crimes and their families, but that of the family of the perpetrator.

The shooter is someone's child, too.

He was loved by his family. Someone used to tuck him into bed and read him books. Someone gave him hugs and comforted him when he scraped his knee. This may not be the case all the time, but in most of these killer's childhoods, these are true statements.

All too often we hear surprise and shock from the family of the murderer.

"He was a quiet, shy boy. We had no idea he was capable of such acts."

I cannot imagine the heartbreak that the parents of these killers feel. In interviews years after the tragedy, many of them feel that no only did they fail their own child, but they failed the families of those their child murdered.


Recognize any of these boys? Click on their photos to read more about them and who they grew up to become.

We don't need metal detectors, we need mental detectors.

In retrospect, there were often signs. An unhealthy fascination with guns. A withdrawal from family. A lack of compassion for other living things. Yet they were all considered part of normal boyhood behaviors.

Boys will be boys.

But these boys grew up to be killers, and if an expert had evaluated them when they were younger they may have seen the signs. Back when some of these boys were growing up, seeking emotional treatment had a societal stigma. Seeing a psychiatrist was seen as a sign of weakness, or implied craziness. 

If you break your leg, you go to an orthopedist. If you have issues with your sinuses, you see an ear nose and throat doctor.

If you have issues processing your emotions, you see a psychologist. Or a therapist. Or a pscyhiatrist. I don't care who it is, mental health care should be more accessible to more people.

And signs like withdrawing from friends and family -- while often a "normal" part of growing up -- can be a symptom of something more.

Health care comes into our schools to screen for vision and hearing problems and scoliosis. Shouldn't we be doing more to proactively screen for emotional problems? 

We have a mental health crisis in this country. I'm wondering how many more have to die for us to understand this and figure out how to address it.

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