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An American Tragedy;Common Sense Wanted Here

I work with lots of children from the age of 4 to 17 who struggle with some form of disturbance in their lives.  Some of these children are solid and healthy in mind and spirit with amazing resiliency given their family history of drug use, physical and emotional abuse, or neglect.  Some of the children I work with are not so lucky.  They suffer from depression, anxiety, relational disorders, conduct disturbances, and even more severe issues of schizophrenia, physical aggressiveness, daily tantrums, threats to kill each family member. 

Some of the work I do with children is done in schools, grade schools primarily.  As a home based therapist, I go into family homes most of the time, assessing the safety of the homes for the children and, at times, assessing the safety of the home for the parents as well.  From time to time, I suggest that the parents consider an inpatient stay in a hospital for a period of time.  All the time, I tell parents to keep sharp objects like knives out of the reach of children who have threatened anyone with a sharp object.  I have recommended alarms on doors and always getting guns out the home of children who has very poor impulse control. 

I am still amazed that some parents resist taking guns out the home when a child evidences some inclination toward violence and restricting access to violent video games which lowers the threshold for the child of the perception of violence and death.  Many children who have some inclination toward violence have a hard time separating fact from fantasy, living in a world where magical thinking occurs on a regular basis, where people die on the screen but not really.   When this is true, it is time to take stock and think about what is in the child’s best interest. What is in the best interest of all the people involved with that child. 

To be clear, it is my heartfelt opinion that children should not be playing violent video games that showcase killing and death.  They become immune to the shocking tragedy of death and violence.  It is no longer a terrible thing that many people on the video screen are laying around dead at the player’s own hand.  It is also not necessary to own an assault rifle or keep guns in the home where a child who or adult who has severe impulse control issues lives.  We have strict rules for foster homes on guns and gun safety.  There is a reason for those severe rules.  And it is so very important to feed children a healthy diet with all the food groups and making sure if they are on medication, that they get it every day (even weekends) because they need to feel in control each day.  Giving children days off from their medication is asking for a hard day for everyone.  It also sends a dangerous message to disturbed children who learn that they don’t “always” need their meds and can stop taking them if they feel like it. 

Therapists don’t want to be thought of as bossy or controlling but we do see a level of mental illness that the lay community does not often see.  It breaks my heart that 20 5 and 6 year olds died at the hands of a young man who killed them with the semi-automatic assault rifle his mother bought for target practice and also died at the hands of.  We can prevent this tragedy by using some common sense.  We can prevent future tragedies by using our well-developed brains and recognizing how our self- serving attitudes puts everyone in danger from the youngest among us to the oldest members of our society.

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