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Guest column/Work to prevent other tragedies from happening

December 23, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

I am simply sick after hearing of the shootings in Connecticut. I had to turn the television off.

My son survived the shootings in theater in Colorado, and last week my eldest daughter gave birth to our first grandchild. My four children are not here to hug and reassure them as I did on 9-11, even though I was not sure that I could protect them. As a father I want to be there for my children and grandchild and make sure that they are safe; delusional as that may sound, parents are involved in keeping their children safe on a daily basis. Schools are safe places for children - how could this happen again. I have prayed a lot for the people in Connecticut and for my family and me. Now I have to write and share my ideas with you.

I am a professor at West Virginia Northern Community College and a clinical counselor having practiced 40 years. I have been looking at the research about these tragic mass killings and want to share it with you and hopefully in some small way prevent this from occurring again.

To put it in an algebraic equation: guns plus young men/teens plus mental illness equals death. This is true regardless if we are talking about a depressed 18-year-old male who kills himself or the string of mass murders we as a culture are experiencing. One of the most serious mental illnesses, schizophrenia, characterized by thought process problems and poor reality testing, actually has its onset between 18 and 26 years of age with an acute psychotic break. If you look at the Columbine incident, severe agitated depression has been identified as a factor and, in Aurora, the psychiatric treatment of the alleged killer is consistent. Please note: Depressed people or people with schizophrenia are not dangerous but are suffering with serious illnesses.

What do we do as a society and individuals to prevent these incidents in the future?

As a people, we need to listen to each other, especially our children, and not stick our heads in the sand when we hear something that causes concern. Help is available.

The single most important thing a parent can do for a depressed child is to separate the child and the guns you may have in your home. Remove them from your home, do not just lock them up. Parents, please listen to your school-age children's concerns about going to school and the fears that they may have after this shooting. How a parent handles each child depends on the age and developmental level of the child. Talk to school personnel like counselors or mental health professionals for assistance in you particular situation.

Society needs to engage in a discussion of the multiple causes of mass murders, not just gun control. The aforementioned equation does not deal with society's values, beliefs and delusions about masculinity and the need to have a gun.

Guns do not make us powerful, and guns do kill (contrary to the NRA's reasoning). What do we believe about mental illness and do we fund research and treatment like we do for cancer or heart disease or AIDS? (You may be surprised to know that we know what causes schizophrenia but we have no cure for it; we only manage the symptoms. More hospital beds are filled with people with schizophrenia than any other disorder.)

Help turn this evil into an opportunity to grow and change as people and as a society.

Turn your anger into a resolve to work to prevent this from ever happening again. School needs to be the safe place we all believed it to be. Contact your legislators, the president, your professional organizations and churches and insist that we work to restore sanity to our culture.

(Davis is a resident of Wintersville.)

 
 

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