Category Archives: #NEVERAGAIN

Mental Health and School Shootings

Repost from Psychology Today

Mental Health and School Shootings

If the violence problem is due to mental health issues, the future is bleak.
By Glenn Geher Ph.D., Darwin’s Subterranean World, Feb 15, 2018

Is anyone else just emotionally exhausted from dealing with mass shootings in our nation? What happened yesterday, when a young man killed 17 at a high school in Parkland, Florida, is starting to seem like a typical news story. To my mind, it is unbelievable how normative this kind of incident is becoming.

In a tweet speaking to this horror, Donald Trump said this:

“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

So the president seems to be primarily placing blame on the fact that the killer was “mentally disturbed.” The president does not mention gun control or much else in his preliminary statement on this incident.

As a professional behavioral scientist, I am disappointed by such a simple characterization of such a significant issue. As I have written about in detail before, nearly all human behaviors are the result of multiple factors (see: Multi-Factorial Causation and the Orlando Shootings). To say that mental instability is the only factor responsible for what happened yesterday in Parkland, Florida is an excessive oversimplification. As is the case with all of the mass shootings we are seeing in our nation these days, there are multiple causes at work.

Let’s Assume for a Second that the Mental Health Issue Is the Primary Issue

For a second, for argument’s sake, let’s think about the implications of the it is a mental health issue perspective on mass shootings. From where I stand, if this were the case, this would be enormously unsettling for various reasons.

Largely, this would be concerning because mental health problems have pretty much been skyrocketing in our nation across the past few decades (see Twenge, 2015). In fact, in a powerful Psychology Today post from 2015, my colleague Jean Twenge provides a mountain of data speaking to the facts that (a) a broad array of psychological disorders, including depressionand anxiety, have increased in frequency since the 1980s and (b) this observed pattern is not exclusively the result of over-diagnosis. In short, our nation is getting less and less mentally healthy with time. And yes, this is a problem.

While this pattern is problematic for many reasons, I’d like you to join me in thinking about the implications regarding the future of senseless violence in this country. A simple assessment of this situation is pretty grave. If mass shootings are the result of mental health problems, and if mental health problems are on the rise, then we can only expect the trend in such events as mass shootings to increase. Think about that.

What Can We Do About It?

To my mind, this constellation of facts is truly grim and gives me great concern regarding our future. Of course, action is ultimately what is needed here. And in a democracy like ours, action often takes the form of embracing the First Amendment and by engaging in the electoral process. We can do things such as writing letters to elected officials, writing letters to the local newspaper, meeting with elected officials and holding them to task, electing officials into office who have a record of taking action on the issues at hand to make a positive difference, and even running for office.

If the problem is all about increases in psychological disorders in our nation, then we need to support programs in the fields of psychology and mental health. And we need to particularly support programs that have been demonstrated, through rigorous empirical research, to actually work. And we need to support our colleges and universities with teams of researchers who are studying this topic with the most cutting-edge scientific methods.

However, given the fact that each mass shooting is likely caused by a broad array of factors, then if we are really serious about increasing the safety of our nation, we need to address each of these factors.

A great deal of research has shown a connection(link is external) between the unique gun laws in the U.S. and the excessively high rate of mass shootings in our nation. The connection is beyond what would be expected by chance. And, in statistical terminology, the effect size is enormous. So while it seems likely that the guy in Florida was mentally unstable, it is also clear that he legally purchased extremely dangerous firearms that ended up being used in the incident. There are at least two foundational causes as to why this event occurred. If we really care about our future, then we need to address both of these issues.

Bottom Line

When I hear about another case of needless violence and carnage, I get upset. I have always liked to believe that the U.S. is a great nation. It’s hard to see things that way when there’s a mass shooting nearly every day in this country and it seems that our hands are tied as to how to deal with it.

One cause of this problem that is often cited pertains to mental health problems. Sure, a lot of these killers have histories of being mentally unstable. But mental health problems are on the rise in this country. So if we really think that the issue of mental health is the primary issue at hand here, then we are in big trouble moving forward. Just saying “be vigilant” is not going to solve the problem.

Further, a landslide of evidence has shown that the unique gun culture and gun laws in the U.S. are very strongly connected with the high level of mass shootings in our nation. It seems, then, given all of these factors taken together, that substantially modified gun laws at this time in our history, while mental health issues are on the increase, would be a good idea. For our shared future.

References

Twenge, J. M. (2015). Time period and birth cohort differences in depressive symptoms in the U.S., 1982-2013. Social Indicators Research, 121, 437-454.

    Gun control in Benicia: High School students hold indoors walkout, Elementary student leaves the building

    Repost from the Benicia Herald

    Benicia High students rally on campus for gun control

    MARCH 14, 2018 BY GEORGE JOHNSTON
    In lieu of a walkout, Benicia High students organized a rally in the quad during Access Period to pay tribute to the victims of school shootings and call for stricter gun control measures. (Photo by George Johnston)

    Unlike at the thousands of schools across the country, zero students walked out of Benicia High School during the National School Walkout. Instead, students held a rally in the quad during Access Period to give speeches on preventing future gun violence and improving their school.

    Senior Carson Rendell began the rally with a moment of silence for the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland Fla. on Feb. 14 He then delivered the first speech of day, focusing on the many victims of school shootings and how easily he believed gun violence could be prevented with stricter gun control laws like stronger background checks and bans on assault weapons.

    “When will we realize this is a problem?” Rendell asked. “When will we take a step back and look at the fact that in this country there are 300 million people here, and there are over 300 million people with guns? That in states like Florida, 18-year-olds do not have to go through a background check to buy an assault rifle and and on average 96 people are killed each day by guns?”

    Kaitlyn Tang gave the second speech, calling for her fellow students to take action so that young people would not have to fear attending school.   Joseph Perez read from a poem he had written, titled “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Politician.”

    Lisa St. Pierre and Lulu Wilson delivered a joint speech, saying America was on the catalyst of change and that the current generation will not rest until this change has
    happened. The duo also called for more support of mental illness and health care, and criticized arming teachers.

    “We have the right to come to school without being shot,” St. Pierre and Wilson said. “We shouldn’t come to school with the fear of death every time we hear the fire alarm and hear someone speak on the loudspeaker or even when someone opens our classroom door. This is not a matter of right and left. This is a matter of life and death.”

    Shannon Sweeney, the senior class president, laid out the legislative rules of the Never Again movement: banning assault rifles, expanding background checks, passing gun violence restraining laws and stopping the militarization of police. She then made a call for civic engagement.

    “We can make a change,” Sweeney said. “In 2012 in the general election, only 38 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted. We need to bring this change to the ballot box. We must demand it from our legislators. We are the future voters. We will not accept their complacency or corruption, and if it continues we will replace them.”

    Upon completion of Access Period, students returned to class.

    However, one Benicia Unified School District student did walk out: at Matthew Turner Elementary School. Earlier in the morning, Emma Willeford’s mother explained, without going into much detail, why people were protesting and asked Emma if she would be interested in joining the national movement. According to her mother, Emma thought it over and agreed to walk out of school.

    Around 10 a.m. Emma was picked up by her mother and met outside by her stepsister, who was a holding a protest sign. For 17 minutes, Emma Willeford waited outside as a part of the walkout. When the 17 minutes were completed, Mrs. Willeford signed Emma back into school. Emma’s teachers were understanding of her choice, according to Mrs. Willeford.

    Mrs. Willeford said she was very proud of Emma.

    Benicia will next be participating in the March for Our Lives 10 a.m. Saturday, March 24 at the foot of First Street.

      Vallejo’s Jesse Bethel High School: students hold indoors walkout for gun control

      Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

      Area students join thousands nationwide in walkout for gun control

      By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald, 03/14/18
      Madison Buster, center, holds a sign to protest gun violence on Wednesday as Jesse Bethel High School students joined others from across the nation in a Walk Out to remember the 17 victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
      Madison Buster, center, holds a sign to protest gun violence on Wednesday as Jesse Bethel High School students joined others from across the nation in a Walk Out to remember the 17 victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. CHRIS RILEY — TIMES-HERALD

      “18th Century laws won’t protect 21st Century Americans!”

      That was just one of several points made by students who took the small stage in the center of Vallejo’s Jesse Bethel High School on Wednesday, joining a national walkout, organized one month after a gunman took the lives 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

      School administrators estimated that up to 1,200 of the school’s 1,550 students filed out of their classrooms at 10 a.m. for the event, planned to last 17 minutes — one for each of those killed at Parkland — as suggested by the surviving Parkland students. They joined thousands of students nationwide who walked out of class to protest gun violence and urge lawmakers to strengthen gun control laws.

      The Bethel students assembled peacefully — some, including at least one school employee, with homemade signs bearing messages like, “Arm me with books, not guns,” Never Again,” “ No more silence, end gun violence,” and “Let’s make a change — this is our time.”

      One senior, Oliver Saunders, 17, said for him, Wednesday’s event is about demanding gun control.

      “Gun control is needed,” he said, citing the number of school shooting incidents in the last year. “Never again, and we call B.S.”

      Ren Simbol, a 16-year-old junior, said it was about making a stand on principle.

      “I feel like I’m part of a historic event,” Simbol said.

      Some shared umbrellas as protection from the intermittent drizzle, while others had hoods up and still others simply braved Vallejo’s damp, chilly Wednesday morning weather.

      Trinity Love, a 17-year-old Bethel junior, said she was out in the elements because there have been enough school shootings.

      “It’s quite terrifying that someone would harm another person just to make a point,” she said.

      With students holding signs bearing the names and ages of those killed in Parkland, several students spoke their thoughts into a microphone set up under a canopy in Bethel’s quad.

      Some spoke of living in fear of gun violence in school and demanding the government take action. Others spoke of the loss of innocent lives. But at least a couple reminded listeners that many believe the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the “right to bear arms” for good reason.

      “But we want improved mental health screening and better background checks,” in any case, said one.

      “I feel there needs to be awareness of gun violence; that this is important and forward-looking,” said Carol McCrory, 18, a senior who said she’s going into the U.S. Marine Corps after graduation. “I hope this creates national, if not global awareness.”

      Bethel principal Linda Kingston said she was fine with the event, so long as it was student-driven. Bethel’s event was primarily organized by the school’s Law Academy students, she said.

      Another, related informational event was planned for the lunch break, as well, she said.

      “There’s a lot of good energy,” Kingston said. “We support the kids in what they have to do. They wanted to stand in solidarity with those in the nation saying it’s time to make a change.”

      Organizing and participating in an event like Wednesday’s peaceful and respectful walk-out will help the students develop a sense of power, she said. But, there will also come some hard lessons in the speed with which change is made in the real world, she said.

      “It’s pretty powerful in understanding how their world works, and how they’d like the world to work,” she said. “It’s pretty powerful to know you have a voice. I think they’re full of optimism that they can apply pressure.”

      School administrator Patty Crespo described Wednesday’s event as “phenomenal.”

      “The students organized all of this,” she said. “They’ll be running the city, the country, the world, some day. They can be the catalyst for amazing change in Vallejo.”

      A similar walkout was organized at nearby Benicia High School. A track meet later in the day between Benicia and Vallejo high schools was also related to the national theme but had to be cancelled due to wet weather. Athletes were expected to wear orange ribbons and a moment of silence was scheduled.

      Vallejo High and American Canyon schools held similar walkouts at their campuses on Wednesday.