Mental health must be component of preventing school shootings

Published 6:23 am Thursday, April 26, 2018

Editor’s note: This is the third of four opinion columns from crisis management expert Thomas Preston, looking at how schools and their communities can take appropriate steps to prevent school shootings. Check back this weekend for part three.

Within another arc of our security circle, America’s mental health field looms as an integral part. Yet problems exist.

Beyond patients and their immediate families, a disproportionate number of Americans look away from both the constraints for and the overdue progress that might well elevate this profession’s value, including its public posture.

               THOMAS PRESTON
                     Guest columnist

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Attaining excellence means increased meaningful research through expansive heuristic training (where students — future professionals — are urged to find out for themselves; promoting self-investigation outside the lecture halls, which many times leads to discovery).

At both state and federal levels, widespread insufficient attention with regard to mental health leads to loss of professional growth, even to patient neglect.

Shorthanded mental health counselors, investigators and other practitioners are encumbered when trying to apply 21st-century priorities, treatments and standards.

Is not a principal role in behavioral science that of acquiring an acute understanding of ever-evolving cultural and human forces  motivating heinous passions?

What about understanding individuals feeling unloved, rejected, unwanted? Understanding is the indispensable tool for psychologists, psychiatrists and others who, because of their responsibilities, must interact with vastly different behaviors on a daily basis.

Greater, more authentic knowledge about causation is required before we gain indispensable focus toward not only this type of crime but also other human violence. By doing so our capabilities for prevention, response and resolution soar!

What does inspire a school assailant, or any active shooter? Well, you already have some answers when words like unloved/unwanted are used.

You already have a few answers when every school shooter so far either cried out for help without receiving attention or issued warnings about personal intentions.

Pleas for help and warnings weren’t hidden. They appeared in essays, on notes at home, on social media, during conversations turning into sudden hateful volleys of words. Where were those who might logically hear something — a listener, teachers, parent, peer?

Where were adults who could find the help eventual shooters definitely required? Here’s a simple one: Why such easy access to weapons?

We face more questions than answers when just the opposite should be our priority. Let’s omit time wasted on congressional or legislative hearings, alleged blue ribbon study groups and other excuses for official foot-dragging. Why depend on any who dropped the hot potato originally?

Surely we can sense hate by one being rejected constantly, or immature reactions when an adolescent mind loses focus in a near-adult body of raging hormones. This age category struggles for comprehension. But didn’t we all, despite different eras?

Today’s youth face temptations Hollywood believes acceptable. TV program originators and sponsors do the same. Don’t exclude electronic games of violence either.

Let me predict, based on experience: Like other so-called cans kicked down the street by the politically correct, the too busy self-centered and simply disinterested cliques who couldn’t care less about real solutions, prospects of more school shootings are higher than ever.

This year already warns us. In the first three months, we’re averaging 1.5 shootings a day somewhere in America. Most result in multiple injuries; too frequently in multiple deaths.

Here then is an issue that should ignite the consciousness of those able to make positive differences.

No excuses are acceptable for leaders who turn away, failing miserably and inexcusably in their civic duties, especially when they can help prevent such carnage!

American history is rife with examples of people in charge who ignore what’s so obvious and later try reacting in much more costly ways about what could have been prevented or at the least attenuated.

A hot topic already surfacing is whether or not new laws should place serious consequences on parents and others permanently liable for illegal actions of their non-adult wards.

Evidence illustrates manifold cases of parental disinterest. How should lawmakers address parent culpability?

Again, these necessarily are medium term subjects requiring wise decisions.

In the final analysis, school shootings — indeed, active shooters taking innocent lives or wounding others for no reason beyond random firing of high capacity magazine loads — deserve the highest priority for common-sense defense.

What are the consequences of lost or maimed lives, of lengthy trauma not just to the direct victims but also to their loved ones?

What price do we put on losses of real and potential human greatness suddenly erased by active shooters?

And, what are the initial and long-term costs of fearful students constantly distracted from the original purpose of schooling, which is to prepare for productive, meaningful, enjoyable and contributing lives?

No accurate calculation exists. It’s beyond comprehension. But total costs are, as someone recently said, “Beyond enormous.”