In light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT — along with college campus shootings, like Virginia Tech or Umpqua Community College — it's past time to take a look at what causes these tragedies to occur.
I've heard a sharp public call for stricter gun control but that won't stop the violence. A person driven to kill will find whatever means are available to him at the time. Stricter penalties won't do it because a person in a murderous rage isn't thinking about consequences.
People will criticize this article because it isn't focused on the victims. Some will say they don't care about what motivates killers. However, it's too late to rescue the shooting victims of Sandy Hook. It's my hope to help any future victims before they become victims by looking at the underlying causes.
If you look at other school shootings, you'll find that most, if not all, shooters were either taking psychotropic medication or just being weaned from it. This medication is prescribed far too frequently to kids and young adults in spite of known unintended effects, such as suicidal and homicidal ideation.
The pharmaceutical companies have become way too powerful. They fund the research and determine what results get reported to the general public and what doesn't, but that isn't the subject of this article. (If you'd like to learn more, check out the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights.)
Why do psychiatrists prescribe drugs with known negative effects? Because it's what they know to do that might help the situation. However, prescribing psychotropic meds is similar to offering Novocain for tooth decay. The person may feel better but the underlying cause is still present and will get worse.
It's time to stop drugging our children to fit in some mold of what we determine is normal. Instead, we should start paying attention to what is creating the problems in the first place.
People who go on a murderous rampage generally have two underlying causes, both of which could be prevented by attention, patience and acceptance. The two underlying causes are either a lack of any meaningful relationships with any adult, and/or a profound feeling of being totally and completely powerless.
This isn't solely the fault of the parents, relatives or teachers. We all bear responsibility for this. How many of us can name a child in our circle of influence that we basically ignore?
Children need basic needs met in order to thrive. Having a serious deficit in any of these basic human needs will lead to creative behavior designed to get the unmet need met. Sometimes that behavior will be responsible and other times not. People always come up with the best option they can conceive of at the time.
1. Children need love and connection with others in their lives. The typical school shooter, if there is such a thing, tends to be disconnected and lacking empathy but isn't necessarily the person who's always in trouble. Usually, they're the quiet, withdrawn children that no one notices. Pay attention.
2. Children need to feel significant. They must have a sense of what makes them special, of what they have to offer others. In the US, we have a school system designed for some students to succeed and many others to fail. You have to do well in math and language (reading and writing) to succeed in school. We must learn to recognize and value the strengths other children possess.
3. Children need significance in a socially-acceptable way. If this doesn't happen, he/she can surely go down in infamy in a school shooting or other anti-social act(s). Failing in school is indicative of many future problems coming from a lack of significance.
4. Children need to feel safe, have a reasonable degree of freedom based on the responsible behaviors they have to manage that freedom, and they need to have enjoyment. A lack of these needs will not set the stage for the violence we saw in Sandy Hook, but prolonged frustration to get these needs met may result in conditions the psychiatric community and pharmaceutical companies want to medicate.
For those of you who are reeling in the aftermath of this tragic event and are looking for something to do, find a child who seems just a little shy or withdrawn, and take the time to connect and draw out their inner brilliance. We can stop the violence one child at a time.