Dr. Helen

School Killers: Complex, Yet Simple

I have nothing left to say really about the recent school shooting because I know it won’t do any good. I wrote about the reasons and feelings that many teens who are angry or violent have, and what can be done — but that was twenty years ago and nothing has changed. In my book, The Scarred Heart : Understanding and Identifying Kids Who Kill, I had this to say about the complexity of the making of a school killer:

The process of understanding these suburban and rural killerkids (or any killer) is an extremely complex one. I liken it to finding the cause of cancer. Initially, researchers thought there was one single point of failure that caused a cell to become cancerous. Unfortunately, the problem is far more difficult.Cells become cancerous after a sequence of failures–each prob-ably harmless in itself –strips away layer after layer of defenses and safeguards. The best way to address cancer is to stop this process before it reaches the point of danger. Like the cancerous cell, many teens become killers after a number of complex variables come together and there is a long process of one safe-guard after another failing them that leads these potential killers to their final, lethal stage. And, as with cancer, the best approach is probably to prevent things from going that far to begin with.

The Florida school shooting by Nikolas Cruz is a textbook case of what happens when you have a mix of mental instability coupled with events like a parental death or other trigger and a lack of oversight and no supervision. The law was called out 39 times and no one did anything. This is typical and will probably continue as the “authorities” make examples of innocent kids who point a finger or discuss guns in any way. This stupidity on the part of adults is part of what feeds the entitlement and anger of actual violent teens.

I used to talk with many parents of kids who were violent and the common theme was that no one would do anything; not if the kid threatened to kill them, not if the kid made their life a living hell, and not even, sometimes, if the kid threatened or hurt younger siblings. It was a helpless, horrible feeling. And now, these kids are unleashed on society and act upon their anger in the most destructive of ways.

There is no one out there who is going to take any responsibility for these kids: parents have no help, the mental health system is a joke, law enforcement is lax and downright incompetent, and everyone else is afraid of these kids, or ignores them. It’s a deadly mix and one that is likely to continue.

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