Is this the next school uniform? As written yesterday, gun violence in US schools has been a problem for decades. Metal detectors have been installed at certain schools since the 1990s. Gun massacres have still occurred. The problem stems from a growing tide of broken homes and kids venting out. The Zero Hour documentary on the Columbine massacre reveals in chilling details how premeditated and well prepared (not to mention preventable) the attack was – propane bombs, pipe bombs, machine guns, pistols and even handgrenades. Perpetrator Eric Harris’s father called up the police on hearing of the shooting fearing his son maybe behind it. The police had received multiple enquiries from concerned parents over death threats Harris had made online to students yet chose to do nothing. Harris and Klebold openly documented their intent in videos and diaries. It is patently clear they wanted revenge for their subjective feelings of having had their esteem crushed by society, especially by more popular class mates. It is clear there were no role models trying to pull them back from the brink.
Still the ‘banning guns will solve it all’ solutions still avoid dealing with the real problem. The psychology of kids lost in a world where they feel outcasts. Feelings of rejection, loss and trodden on self esteem are shown to be time and time again to be a leading factor in kids picking up a weapon and seeking to right perceived wrongs. Many American high school kids drive to school. Can we envisage one deciding to drive a car on campus mowing down students at lunch time? Will banning cars be a solution?
What next? Will parents be decking out kids in bulletproof vests and hoping teachers who are incentived to arm themselves in the class room step up if all hell breaks loose? One wonders whether kids like Harris & Klebold would have been deterred by teachers packing heat. Even worse, SWAT snipers at a distance of 500 meters may not be able to determine at the time who are the ‘bad guys’. Even worse, how terrible it would be for a teacher to be tasked with ‘offing’ a student who he or she teaches in remedial maths class. One would hope the motivation of teachers is to want to educate students to get ahead rather than aim at their head. Or have things got so bad in some schools that such a remedy gets leant a sympathetic ear. Having armed security at schools is less and less a rare occurrence.
In 2015, about 3,000,000 teens ages 12 to 17 had had at least one major depressive episode over the year according to the Department of Health and Human Services. More than 2 million admitted they were experiencing depression in ways that impair daily function. The National Institute of Mental Health reported about 30% of girls and 20% of boys– some 6.3 million teens–have had an anxiety disorder.
A Seattle Children’s Hospital study tracked hashtags people use on Instagram to talk about self-harm. It noted a dramatic increase over the past two years. In 2014 researchers got 1.7 million search results for “#selfharmmm”. By 2015 that number had surged to over 2.4 million.
The American Psychological Association (APA) released a report several years ago during the school year saying that teens report their stress level is higher than levels reported by adults in the past month. Many teens admitted feeling overwhelmed (31%) and depressed or sad (30%) as a result of stress. More than one-third of teens report fatigue or feeling tired (36%).
Sales of antidepressant drugs is expected to be a $17bn industry in the US in 2020, up $3bn from 2015. The National Center of Health Statistics reports the prevalence of teenagers taking such drugs has grown to 13%, in 2015 up from 11% in 2008. 68% of people ages 12 and up said they had been taking their antidepressant for two years or more. A quarter who took antidepressants reported taking them for 10 years or more. Clinical depression affects about 16mn people in the U.S. and is estimated to cost the U.S. about $210 billion a year in productivity loss and health care.
Is this honestly seen as the best way to tackle a mental health crisis? Just dope up teenagers and hope they are comfortably numb so as to not want to do harm to themselves or others? It was shown that Harris had switched antidepressants which could have fueled not quelled his homicidal and suicidal tendencies. This isn’t about guns. It is about ignoring the elephant in the room – stressed out kids with no mentors or role models to coax them out of their problems.
In some respects, schools are only making it worse by pandering to safe spaces and enforcing trigger warnings. Instead of dealing with the psychological problems at source and proactively targeting attention starved kids growing up in broken homes by counselling them in ways to build self esteem and how to get on in the “real” world, the problem will only fester because irrational feelings of hopelessness will get reinforced by ignoring the real issue.
Tranquilizing people with mental issues by molly-coddling them is also the mantra in the world of identity politics. By muzzling people from speaking truths we only build barriers around effective solutions. That regulations around hurting people’s feelings are increasingly being enforced, is it any wonder we are growing a generation of victims who can pin the blame on irrelevant and unrelated things? Healing comes through listening and understanding by open and transparent dialogue. Not by banning it.
Will an hypothetical ban on guns prevent the growing trend of kids growing up in single-parent households (and all of the psychological data which shows clear evidence of a higher rate of delinquency in children) from committing such terrible acts of violence because they have no access to firearms? Feelings of desperation will only lead them to find other ways of seeking their distorted view of attaining inner peace. More kids will die and at the end the exact same problems will manifest themselves again – what lead to the act? At least in this case, Parkland, Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz survived. Perhaps we will learn much more about the psychological timeline of him if the press can wake up for 5 minutes and stop trying to link the act purely to white supremacy because it fits a narrative.