What can we really do to stop school shootings?
Researchers are taking a hard look at what can be done about school shootings that recently occurred in Newtown, Connecticut and too often since the 1970's. If we’re going to stop it from happening in the future, it’s going to take vigilance, redefining how we screen for risks of violence and new mental health protocols.
Authors for a new study published in "Current Psychiatry Reports" recommend a closer look a mental health issues that increase the risk of ‘rampage’ or ‘spree’ shootings.
Dr. Daniel J. Flannery at Case Western Reserve University and colleagues have explored past studies on the topic of shootings that involve multiple victims to find common characteristics of shooters that include narcissism, depression, low self-esteem and a fascination with violence. But the researchers failed to find enough similarities to fit a specific profile.
The study authors are calling upon community mental health providers and professionals and particularly psychiatrists for help in working with schools to identify threats. In particular, the authors say it’s important to find out what mental health issues are contributing to increased risk for rampage and mass shootings. What characteristics are typical that can alert parents and professionals before something happens?
The authors write: "School shootings are not all the same and may require different approaches to prevention and treatment, especially with respect to identifying risk factors at the individual, school or community levels, and particularly with regard to examining the role that mental health issues may play to increase risk for perpetration."
They suggest mental health professionals find ways to work with school officials to conduct thorough threat assessments that can help ferret out youth with mental health needs that can lead to such violence.
Testing young adults for suicide and homicide risk, how they think, mood and behavior and social and development history are all tools not currently available to mental health workers in schools that should be developed.
The authors say it’s also important to pay attention to any obsession with firearms and drawings or writing with violent themes. It’s also important for professionals to take any threat of violence seriously, just as mental health workers are trained to take threats of suicide seriously.
Though the authors don’t specifically say so, it stands to reason that parents should pay attention to their child’s behaviors if mass shooting tragedies are to stop.
Flannery and colleagues also recommend renewed focus on helping victims of violent crimes like what happened in Newtown, Connecticut. They note that too often the focus is on trying to figure out how it happened, leaving victims without needed mental health support.
Gun control might help protect innocent people from school shootings, but more is needed. The authors for the current study suggest a different approach that focuses on understanding mental health issues that lead to such crimes and developing new protocols for identifying risks and intervening.
Flannery D et al (2013).
Violence and School Shootings.
Current Psychiatry Reports
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