Richard Martinez, whose son was killed in the Santa Barbara shootings last week, said, “Not one More.”
I believe that we could use better gun control laws in this country, but I don’t believe that those laws, necessarily, will prevent the gun violence that results in mass shootings like the one last week at UCSB. I do believe that more vigilance on our part, and more support for those suffering with mental illness will make a difference.
What we know about the California shooter, Elliott Rodgers, in particular, is that his family did have concerns so they did contact law enforcement. The outcome of that visit between law enforcement and Rodgers I’m sure will be debated for a long time to come, but what we can say is that the parents did try to make a difference.
It is up to us as a community — as family, friends, neighbors, teachers, doctors, clergy and others to observe changes in the people we know and love. That is the key. It has never been more important than now to start a dialogue about understanding mental illness, the signs and symptoms, and how you can help.
If you suspect mental illness in a friend or loved one you need to learn more about what is going on or what is troubling them. If you get too little cooperation you can call a mental health professional or even the legal authorities for help. I am not saying that any of this is easy. The reality is it is very difficult, and sometimes it comes at a high price – the loss of a friendship or even more. It is human nature to ignore the frightening truths that are sometimes right in front of us, but the only solution to ending the senseless violence is to reach out when you have concerns. While we cannot predict with total accuracy who will commit violence, we do have enough evidence to know when to act. If we have the courage, and trust ourselves about our observations we might make the world a bit safer and move just a bit closer to reaching Mr. Martinez goal of “not one more!”
Here is a short list of some behavioral changes that should be of concern:
- Increased anger, aggression, tantrums, irritability, and revenge episodes especially when you can’t make any sense of the situation and the person seems more depressed, isolated and unruly than usual.
- The appearance of strange ideas especially having to do with anti-government themes, conspiracy theories, and other paranoid trends especially if accompanied by hearing voices.
- Interest in and ownership of weapons that are a new or heightened twist for the individual.
- Overt or thinly veiled threats, writings, interest in and worship of lethal ideas towards self or others, including suicide.
- Increase in substance use by people with a history of violence and especially in those who have been treated for a severe psychiatric illness who have stopped their medication.
Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.