MASS SHOOTINGS ARE MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS – NOT GUN PROBLEMS
The number of mass shootings in general, including school shootings specifically, has significantly increased in the recent past. Tragically, the public outcry to stop these massacres rose to a level demanding attention only after a recent a rash of shootings murdered and wounded students, teachers and others in schools; police officers and sheriffs deputies; concert attendees; church members and other innocents. We have reached a point where school officials, law enforcement professionals, parents, students and others in communities across the country are beginning to take seriously the need to respond and develop plans to prevent future mass shootings.
The outcry focuses on gun rights, gun ownership, restrictions on who can buy, keep and bear arms, cries for outlawing certain classes of weapons, especially military assault weapons, and other firearms-related issues, which are mostly long-standing controversies. Anything that reduces the risk of another massacre must be considered, and reasonable policies made and implemented.
But any firearms-related measures that may get implemented are not enough. It is past time to stop paying lip service to the need to address the mental health issues contributing to these incidents and to start using hard science and sound research results to address the problem, starting with real solutions for mental health.
In almost every case, after the fact we learn that the individual who committed the shootings and killings gave some verbal or behavioral indication of their intention to harm others. In many cases there were several of these troubling verbal, social media or behavioral signals. In a significant number of cases the individuals who committed these heinous acts exhibited a list of several alarming signals.
Unfortunately, the teacher, friend, colleague, pastor, or law enforcement professional who saw or heard these signals from someone who later pulled the trigger either 1) did not have enough of the pieces of the puzzle to know that these signals indicated that they needed to actively intervene, or 2) did not have sufficient information or expertise to intervene in an appropriate and meaningful way.
The growing awareness that mental health issues play a significant role in shootings and incidents of violence may have reached a tipping point that will result in meaningful intervention. Unfortunately, it is not enough to know that mental health problems contribute to acts of violence, whether the victims are an individual or family, or on a more mass scale, such as in the (currently, early 2018) most recent shooting at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, at a concert on the strip in Las Vegas and at a church in rural central Texas.
If there is to be meaningful intervention and reduction of violence in individual incidents (especially domestic violence), along with reduction of mass shootings and other violent episodes, there must be understanding not only of mental health problems generally, but also an understanding of brain functioning in particular, including how brain injuries and disorders lead to violent behaviors.
The reality that concussive injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and resulting or other brain disorders lead to aggressive, violent behaviors is well documented in the professional literature, as well as in the case histories of individuals who have committed some of these atrocious acts. We at CorrValues, LLC have documented the unrecognized frequency of concussions and head injuries in our white paper entitled, Covert Concussive Syndrome (elsewhere on this website), as well as in an article that has recently been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed professional periodical, Journal of Correctional Healthcare (Stephens, Burlinson, & Kirkpatrick, Covert Concussive Syndrome in Corrections, 2018, in press).
We cannot overemphasize that while every case is unique, the pattern among the histories of people committing domestic violence, murder-suicides and massacres clearly shows a common thread of concussions and brain injuries and other brain disorders leading to violent behaviors that are often signaled clearly before the deadly events. The 19-year-old who killed 17 students and faculty in the Florida high school on Valentines Day 2018, had a documented history of autism, and was observed frequently banging his head against a cement wall when he was required to attend school.
If we are to prevent future incidents of violence on a large scale, we cannot rely on simply saying there is a mental health component to them or rely on a simple assessment that identifies mental health problems that are unrelated to engaging in violent behavior. Our efforts must focus on Identifying individuals who have suffered concussions or traumatic brain injuries with subsequent anger management problems, inappropriate behavior that results in suspensions or expulsions from school, substance abuse, involvement in the criminal justice system, or several of these indicators, all of which indicate loss of mental or behavioral control, and a risk of increasingly violent behavior.
CorrValues, LLC has created the following plan for effective identification and treatment of those who are at risk of violent behaviors on some scale, large or small:
- Design and implement a process for recognizing the signals and aggregating reports across time and places to identify individuals who present, or may present, a significant risk to others. Work with the local Sheriff’s office, police department, district attorney, probation officers, parole officers, school administrators and counselors, business HR professionals, pastors and ministers, and others to identify people (kids and adults) who have been suspended or expelled from school, created incidents at places of employment, churches or other community events, and have become involved with local law enforcement in the form of citations, other criminal charges, incarceration, and/or community supervision.
- Once somebody has been identified as having an anger management or behavioral control problem, primarily through law enforcement and school officials (but from others listed above as well), they should be required to complete a Brain Health Exam.
- The Brain Health Exam (BHE) will identify any history of concussive events, traumatic brain injuries, other brain disorders, and resulting lack of behavioral control.
- The output from the BHE then gets communicated to those with supervisory or monitoring responsibility for those individuals, so that their condition can be addressed with treatment to achieve recovery from the brain issue (best intervention), or at minimum continued monitoring.
- Outcome data will be collected, analyzed, and reported to establish patterns of behavior and reduced or eliminated risk as a result of the assessment and intervention.
In addition to the expected substantially reduced risk of violent episodes, we expect that our plan could definitely achieve the following outcomes:
- Improved academic performance and reduced behavioral acting out at school.
- Improved environment in the classroom and throughout school and college campuses, due to reduced individual misbehavior, especially anger and aggression.
- Reduced use of psychotropic medications, which have a long-standing history of ineffectiveness in these individuals. They so dislike the side effects that they resist beginning to take their prescribed medications, and too frequently discontinue them if they do start.
- Reduced loss of school time, work time, and inefficient performance due to complications resulting from brain injuries and disorders.
- Reduced community supervision (probation and parole) caseloads, due to reduced criminal and rule-violating behaviors.
We are working to pilot this program with local schools, law enforcement agencies, and churches.
Contact us to see how you can get involved.
CorrValues, LLC: 573 590-4638