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Friday, September 17, 2010

When The Warning Signs Of Mental Illness Are Ignored

On February 14, 2008, Steven Kazmierczak open fired with a shotgun and three handguns on the campus of Northern Illinois University. He killed five people, wounded sixteen others and then killed himself.

His girlfriend Jessica Baty reports that he had been taking medication for anti-anxiety, depression and insomnia that had been prescribed to him by a psychiatrist. She also adds that he had stopped taking his medication three weeks prior to the incident and his behavior had become increasingly erratic.

One week earlier in Baton Rouge, Latina Williams opened fire with a .357 revolver in a classroom at Louisiana Technical College killing two other students and then shot herself. Friends of Latina are confused about the reasons for the shooting, but felt that she may have been depressed recently.

April 16, 2007 in Blacksburg, Virginia, Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 students and injured 25 more before shooting himself. He had been diagnosed for years with an anxiety disorder and depression and his condition two years prior to the shooting had become increasingly aberrant. Health professionals involved with Seung have been criticized for failing to notice and help him when his condition continued to deteriorate.

October 11, 2007, Asa Coon, a 14 year old student at Success Tech Academy in Cleveland, Ohio went on a shooting spree injuring 5 people before killing himself. Asa had been a troubled youngster for years and had been on medication for ADHD and depression but had many times refused to take his medication. He had on several occasions been in trouble at school for fighting and injuring other students.

On October 7, 2007 in Crandon, Wisconsin, Tyler Peterson went to an off campus homecoming party and shot six students, killing them and injured another before turning the gun on himself.

In the past three years alone, there have been 33 reported cases of school related shootings. Before that we have become all too familiar with the terror associated with the cities of Columbine, Colorado (photo), Jonesboro, Arkansas and Red Lake, Michigan as children became the targets for the ravaging of a sick mind.

What will it take to get the attention of the authorities and health professionals involved in the safety and assistance of troubled children and teenagers? How many more of our children will suffer at the hands of a psychotic killer? Well, it seems that it has come to the attention of some.

In a report published in 2008 by the American Psychological Association, Dr. Dewey Cornell, a clinical psychologist and professor in the school of education states that there seems to be three profile types of youngsters that commit violent crimes.

First are the mentally ill youths that suffer from psychotic episodes and delusions that guide their behavior. Second are the antisocial youths with aggressive, impulsive behavior and a long history of delinquent or disruptive behavior. And third, are the youths that appear to be normal in every other aspect of life. They are intelligent and capable but they are not satisfied with their achievements. They are especially sensitive to teasing and bullying and as they become more resentful and depressed, their judgment becomes distorted.

But truthfully, there are many children today that have these profiles but do not commit violence. In order to commit a crime, the youth needs motive, method and means. He or she needs motive to commit a crime, method which the child has learned, and a means to carry it out.

Dr. Cornell’s research led him to believe that this dangerous combination is what usually pulls the trigger. He attributes violent video games and televisions shows to giving the youth the means to learn how to kill one victim after another, like we see in so many cases and the easy availability of guns as the means to carry out the violent act.

Not that guns themselves are the cause of the violence, but they provide the means. As far as motive is concerned, all we have to do is think about our own teenage years with all the frustrations associated with changing from a child to an adult and we readily understand how many children start down a path to disturbing behavior.

The difference between the child that has motive but does not kill and the one that does is usually found in the support of peers and family to actually carry out the crime. It can be very shocking indeed to discover that the youth had previously discussed the intent to commit violence with his peers and family and was actually encouraged in many cases to carry it out.

In the last eight years there have been at least seven reported cases of planned plots to commit school violence that were exposed and terminated by the authorities. This is due in part to increased awareness and reporting concerning a student that exhibits disturbing behavior along with issuing threats of violence to other students.

It is extremely important to pay attention to the warning signs of a troubled child and get him the help he needs. This can mean life or death to him or her along with anyone who would become his victim. Depression, anxiety, unusual drop in grades, withdrawal from normal activities or any other change in behavior warrants our attention and direction to a professional counselor to aid in the child’s recovery.

If you know of any youngster that is exhibiting these symptoms, please take the time to get help for him. Don’t ignore the signs of a dangerous mind.

Sources:
American Psychological Association, ABC News, Associated Press, CNN.com, Wilkepedia.org, infoplease.com, crimelibrary.com

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