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The Andy Griffith Show vs. Today's Violence
As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency. - Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg
During mid-December 2012, when most Americans and International visitors would usually be ending school semesters and preparing for a number of winter holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year's, the nation was wailing in sorrow.
Radio reporters announced that Mother Jones Magazine had found some interesting though disturbing data. In the 30 years from 1982 through 2012, the USA had suffered 61 separate mass murders or an average of two per year. President Barack Obama reminded the nation in his televised speech on 12/16/2012 in Newtown, Connecticut that four of these deadly events had occurred during his first term in office.
The murdering of 20 first graders on 12/14/2012 with as many as 11 automatic firearms shots per child is unspeakable. The selfless heroism of the six murdered and many surviving teachers that saved all the other children in the grade K-4 elementary school reminds us of the scripture that lifts up those who give their lives for their fellow humans. The quick action of the first responders is already legendary. The outpouring of compassion from the rest of the nation toward the people of Newtown is overwhelming.
Outlying political squawks about gun control are out of place.
The promotion of gun control and even some of the sorrow for the gunman in the Sandy Hook school shootings distracts the nation from attending to the larger problem of Severe Mental Disorders (SMD) that is one of 1) undiagnosed or incorrectly diagnosed, 2) complicated by patient non-compliance with medication schedules, 3) complicated by failure of medical, school, and law enforcement authorities to act when red flags of SMD that indicate harm to self or others are clearly flown.
Personal Experience and SMD
My experience in these matters ranges from evaluating and assessing individuals for SMD, working on a team that provided treatment for patients with SMD, and living in a community in which several cases of mass shootings and planned attacks of a similar nature were handled by our justice system. These cases include the Highway Overpass Shooter as well as attempts to blow up shopping malls after 9/11.
Individuals with Severe Mental Disorders require intensive help. While I do not feel that they should be punished for their illnesses with mass institutionalization, nor punished criminally until competent to stand trial, I do feel that those that refuse to take medications as scheduled and those for whom no treatment works and who continue to present high potentials for harm to self and others need to be removed from public society.
Many wish for a return to the gentler life of Mayberry, North Carolina, kept safe by Sheriff Andy Taylor
A Mother's Letter Crying For Help
A local news commentator here read a letter over the radio on 12/16/2012 from a mother of an elementary or middle school son with a SMD that was undiagnosed. Physicians and psychiatrists can not pin it down, but one hallmark of it is explosive violence with persistent threats of homicide and suicide.
This mother has not been able to receive any substantial medical help with her son. However, she is consistent with her spoken menu of consequences for unwanted behavior. Her son recently threatened for the umpteenth time to kill her and she drove him to the local psychiatric institution as she had promised him she would do on his next threat. She shouted out her driver's side window to staff outside to call 911.
As the child became enraged and violent, she hugged him hard until police could reach her car. It required three large male police officers and a paramedic to subdue the child at the entrance to the hospital. The child will be hospitalized until answers are found and I have faith that he will be prevented from harming himself, his mother, or his class at school.
This mom took action and made it stick. She felt she had to do so before her son grew large enough to subdue her, rather than visa versa. She still loves her son and her action is not punishment. Further, she published her experience in her local newspaper to warn other parents to help their children in similar circumstances before someone dies. Unfortunately, law enforcement in some towns cannot act in these situations at all until someone is injured severely or killed.
This mom in her newspaper piece stated that she is the symbolic mother of Adam Lanza (the 20-year-old Sandy Hook Shooter), Gabby Gifford's attacker, and all the others noted by Mother Jones. She feels that all parents are the parents of these attackers and should feel obligated to seek help for their own children and other children who show signs of SMD and especially violence.
Many Severe Mental Disorders exist and parents should not try to diagnose and handle them without medical intervention. These symptoms and syndromes are blatantly too overlapping with other SMD, personality disorders, neuroses, and medical conditions; and, too complex to leave to chance -- In fact, many of the symptoms could just as well be results from brain lesions, tumors, or developmental disorders as from a psychological condition. I have seen the tragedy that results from refusing to seek medical help in these cases.
I was able to help in a case of one of my younger students that might have ended badly. The destructive behaviors that were escalating were caused by a regimen of medications that was not working properly. All it took was a phone call from me to parents to tell them what I saw and they jumped into action by involving the physicians. Within two weeks, that child was stable and has remained so to this day.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- Some school systems maintain School Violence Hotlines. Contact your schools to learn of there is such a hotline in your community. If not, ask the local school board how your town can start one.
- U.S. Hotlines
Suicide, elder abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, and several others: Hotlines, crisis lines, agencies and organizations for help in the United States.
- How and Where to Get Help for Domestic Abuse and Violence
This is a listing of reliable places and Hotline numbers in the USA and UK to call when you need help to escape domestic violence, abuse, and related situations.
Action and Answers
We may not be able to return to the 1950s to Mayberry NC with its simpler life. We don't have a Sheriff Andy Taylor that can figure out what to do in every situation. However, we do have one another in our communities. We also each have mySelf, a person that can take action in our own lives and offer help and compassion to others in theirs.
As societies grow in numbers of individuals, the instances of violence that we hear and see in the media become more frequent. In the early to mid-1990s, my research group found that the number one concern in our school systems was violence. Violence is a target program of the Health People projects of the US Federal government. At this time, we are working on Healthy People 2020.
The 2010s in America is a time in history in which violence needs to be chained. We need to develop ways of securing our schools and helping families with children that suffer SMD. Meanwhile, some simple precautions can be taken -- One of these is to not have guns in the house here someone with one of the SMDs is living, or at least to keep firearms well locked away. People with any of the mental illnesses have rights, but not to the extent that they surpass the rights of people without mental illnesses. Individuals with SMD need help, but also need to be prevented from shooting a roomful of children and six teachers.
The government cannot cure the problem alone and neither can the school systems of America. Parents also need help in these situations. The answer will take all of us.