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:
Contact us to see how you can get involved.
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