12 Things I Wish People Understood About School Shootings (As A Kid Who Was Bullied Until They Were Pulled Out Of Public School)

Photo: 74images | Canva
Little girl sitting on the steps of her school, with her backpack

Allow me to introduce myself. I was a kid who was a victim of bullying in school as well as socially isolated and tormented my entire school career. Though I managed to make a good life for myself as an adult, it’d be a bald-faced lie to say I was not a troubled child.

My memories of school caused issues that I still deal with to this very day at 30 years old. I can no longer go to any form of school without having a panic attack. My first impulse, upon seeing someone dressed like an average person is to lash out at them or run away. I still have anger issues and anxiety. Anyone who thinks bullying or ostracism is something minor needs to think again.

At one point, bullying got so bad that teachers were worried I was going to hurt myself — or others — and asked that I be removed from public school. They actually made the decision after they read my suicide note.

RELATED: 3 Psychological Reasons Even Good People Become Bullies

I was 13 when it happened and by 14, I got away from my tormentors for a while. That actually saved my life and I’m forever thankful for it. Private school helped give me a lot of hope for the future. Honestly, we need more private schools like the one I went to.

All this happened when I was in 7th grade. It was only a couple of years after the Columbine school shooting and, to a point, that influenced a lot of my anxiety and depression. When that school shooting happened, I knew it wasn’t going to be the only one. Most people didn't believe me but even back then, the writing was on the wall.

As someone who has seen the ugly, taboo side of American society and culture, there’s a lot that needs to be understood by the mainstream. Here are things I feel need to be said, if only to help diffuse the ticking time bomb that we have created.

Here are 12 things I wish people understood about school shootings, as a kid who was bullied until they were pulled out of public school:

1. School is designed to make kids snap

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: American schools are designed to make kids get angry, violent, and hateful. It’s a pressure cooker and we do not give kids any outlets for that rage.

You’re stuck in a classroom with the same people for years. There’s a social food chain that turns vicious by the time middle school arrives. If you are not one of the teacher’s favorites and have the misfortune of being “weird,” kids will bully you relentlessly. Even after school hours, they will go at it thanks to the internet.

This would be a lot better if you just let kids fight it out, old-school style. Bullies would lay off and maybe life would be tolerable. However, that’s not okay now.

If you lash out or strike back, guess what? You’re going to be the one punished. That Zero Tolerance BS really means “Zero Tolerance for Fighting Back.” You can’t do that to kids without them either getting used to being abused or bottling it up until they explode.

2. In some cases, teachers will actually worsen the problem

The news about the Santa Fe shooter is that his gym coaches bullied him. I’m not the least bit surprised. A lot of teachers will actually bully outcasts as a way to bond with the more popular kids.

This isn’t anything new, either. It’s just gotten worse. I had one art teacher who, when I burst into tears, told me to “sit in the classroom and let everyone see you cry.” (Had I known I could have sued the school, I would have.)

I need not explain how teachers contribute to the whole “you can’t fight back” thing, do I? Every single day, countless kids have tried the whole “tell an adult” thing we drum into them.

Teachers don’t do anything because honestly, they don’t want to face the wrath of the bully’s parents. Moreover, telling a teacher is social suicide. If you tell anyone, it’s basically shooting yourself in the foot for absolutely no noticeable advantage.

3. Parents are partly to blame but in many cases, don’t even know how to help

Parents who notice their kid going down this path aren’t happy — trust me, I know firsthand how much it hurt my mom to see me suffer. No parent wants to see their kid’s name on the news and unless the parents are really clueless, they already will have noticed that their child is unwell.

The thing is, parents are human. They make mistakes. Whether it’s due to denial or other issues, most parents either don’t know how to make things better or don’t want to admit how bad it has gotten. Some parents trying to help will actually worsen the situation.

Could they help? Possibly a little, if they have money to get their kids mental health counseling, pull them out of school, or find them new friends. They might be able to be a willing ear, and in many cases, that can help more than leaving them locked in a room with a computer.

As much as we want to blame parents, it’s not entirely their fault. There’s only so much you can do, and the resources available for families in situations with at-risk kids seem to shrink every day.

4. The social scene of schools doesn’t help

There’s definitely a palpable social strata in American schools. If you’re at the top or the middle, you’re right. However, if you’re in the really low ranks of a school’s society, you don’t even realize how bad it can get.

Even if you’re sweet as pie to others, people will avoid you if you’re unpopular. Funny enough, one of the key indicators that someone will eventually react violently is that the child is socially isolated.

RELATED: The Power Of Teaching Kids The 'Opposite Compliment' Method To Stop Bullying

5. The loneliness a lot of students feel affects their brains in really messed up ways

When you don't have friends or people to talk to face-to-face, you start getting some really strange ideas about how socializing works. In many cases, lonely people turn to movies, books, or the internet to socialize.

When people cling to media or cartoons to get an idea of how to socialize, they tend to become unrealistic about their expectations. No one has sat them down to tell them that no, high school kids don’t have raging parties in mansions every week. They also tend to believe that everyone is going on dates way more often than they really are. They believe what they see, and sadly, what they see in movies isn’t real.

In a lot of cases, the people they connect with online aren't mentally well or are actively trying to poison their minds for their own gain. Typically, these forums will have lots of hate, racism, and sexism. They will tell the bullied that they should hate others because of what’s happened to them.

The internet often acts as an echo chamber, and that’s actually adding gas to the inferno. This is why you’re beginning to see angry forums filled with outcasts talking about how much they hate “Chad” and “Stacy.”

I was lucky. The friends I made online during middle school and high school were pretty well-adjusted. One’s a college professor, another is an artist, and another works in video games. They’re cool like that. Had I gone onto the wrong forums, I’d have ended up in a way worse position.

6. The last thing a lonely, bullied individual wants to hear is that it’s their fault they’re alone

People often wonder why school shooters and others like them don’t look at themselves in the mirror and blame themselves. I’ll tell you firsthand, it’s a mix of reasons.

First, most of the people who get to that point have been isolated and alone for years. In many cases, they don’t have self-awareness because no one has taught them self-awareness. You can only really learn self-awareness by socializing with people and by having people guide you.

Second, they feel sick and tired of being told to “be nicer” and “improve yourself.” Do you have any idea how hard it is to be nice to people when it seems like it’s all for naught? If you’re constantly rejected, constantly isolated, and constantly ignored, you don’t want to hear that you need to be better to gain their approval.

Third, when they do try, there’s still that frustration they get at the slightest hint of a rejection — and that makes them blow up when things don’t get better for them. By this point, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and a vicious cycle. They try, they get rejected, they blow up, and the people avoid them more.

Finally, there’s the fact that nobody tries to help them be better, and if someone does try, they’re often treated with suspicion. If someone went from bullying you to suddenly being nice to you, wouldn’t you get suspicious? I’m guessing you would.

7. They need help, but it needs to be the right kind of help

Most school shooters, outcasts, and “incels” are people who are exceedingly lonely. They are crying out for affection, attention, and acceptance. Hell, they are starved for it. A little bit of kindness and a little bit of mental healthcare could do wonders for them. I say this as someone who’s been there.

Mental health care and therapy help in obvious ways. So, I’ll skip explaining that issue.

Inviting these people to a party, having frank discussions with them about their behavior, and getting them mental health help can have a huge impact when it comes to the overall outcome. I speak as someone who’s been there. Had certain people not hung out with me, things would have been very different in high school.

I really wish people would talk to these folks more often. Bluntness and being willing to teach them in baby steps are key. Tell them what drives others away, and try to guide them to healthier habits, just little things like that could have helped me immensely.

That being said, it has to come from the right people. From what I’ve noticed, men who are in this kind of situation don’t respond well to female help in most cases. They get angry, lash out, or just start seeing the girl as someone to date. Guys tend to need friendship from other guys. Most girls? Well, they often could use more female help since many guys will take advantage of them.

8. A stronger sense of community could help immensely if only people would be willing to partake

It’s no secret communities have gotten increasingly distant, less tight-knit, and less supportive of members. Nowadays, if you’re shoved out of a group, it’s way harder to find another group to call “home.”

Social groups, even neighbors, are way more wary of others than they used to be. Part of the reason that violence happens is because people don’t have anywhere to turn to. You’re just expected to pick yourself up and find new friends when there may not be new potential friends in your area.

I’d really strongly suggest helping loners find communities. It could help prevent catastrophe and give them the skills they need to develop into functional adults.

RELATED: Teacher Shares How She Prepares Classroom For Active Shooters In Viral Video Sparking Gun Control Debate

9. Even if they don’t shoot up the school, people who are in this situation will find ways to act out

Whether it’s by shooting up a school, joining a gang, self-injuring, or getting into hard drugs, the torment they feel will end up showing up one way or another. And believe me, it’s always very ugly when it does.

Personally, I developed an extremely hard drug problem in my late teens, developed an eating disorder, and became extremely promiscuous since it was the only way I could get attention that I knew of. I was hospitalized and overdosed multiple times. It took years for me to overcome both issues. Most people who dealt with what I did, didn’t survive.

This kind of abuse and pain can and will manifest in people who experience it. It takes discipline to overcome it, but it’s doable. However, overcoming it doesn’t necessarily stop the fact that it manifested in the first place.

10. A large part of what causes the violence is the feeling that they are being shamed or ignored

No one likes to feel like they are nothing. No one. When you feel like you constantly are shamed by others and feel like you have nothing to lose, you will find a way to hurt them the way you feel they hurt you.

When people make you feel small, it’s incredibly tempting to lash out at them to feel bigger. School shooters feel like they have no status, and that no one respects them. When they decide to shoot up a school, it’s their way of saying, “You act like I don’t matter and like you won’t remember me. Well, too bad. I’m going to make you remember me.”

From what I’ve personally noticed, men tend to feel more shame and status loss when they’re bullied or rejected than women do. They also are generally given more social leeway to act angry. This tends to cause them to lash out violently, while women’s forms of violence tend to go more inward — or they’ll take a more aggressive way of verbally abusing other women.

11. While school shooters have a lot of reasons to react violently, at the end of the day, this is still their choice and we have to hold them accountable for that

I do not want people to think that I’m making excuses for school shooters. I’m not. At the end of the day, they are the ones who chose to pull the trigger and they are the ones who murdered others. What I am saying, though, is that a lot of this violence could be avoided if people took a better look at what’s causing it.

Would gun control help? Yes, but only the symptom — and sometimes, it wouldn’t do anything at all. If we want to be rid of this problem, we’re going to have to get the cure for the disease.

12. Quit saying it’s “not your problem”

Any time that a school shooting or a teen suicide happens, it’s everyone’s problem. Any time that you hear this news, at least one kid dies. Let that sink in for a moment.

It’s living, breathing proof that the system failed. It means that teachers failed that kid, that parents failed that kid, that fellow classmates failed that kid, and that the local community regulations failed that kid.

It means that a family just lost their kid. It means that the person who, in another world, could have grown up to be a billionaire, ended up being put in a box. It means that the people who helped push that kid to kill him or herself or others have blood on their hands.

It’s everyone's problem. It is your problem, my problem, and everyone else's problem. And it’s a problem that’s getting worse and will continue to worsen unless people start recognizing what’s going on.

If you or somebody that you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, there is a way to get help. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or text "HELLO" to 741741 to be connected with the Crisis Text Line.

RELATED: New Jersey School's Controversial Method To Try To Curb Bullying Has Parents Divided

Alex Alexander is a pseudonym. The author of this article is known to YourTango but is choosing to remain anonymous.