Viewpoints

How can we prevent more mass shootings?

Mourners participate during a candlelight vigil held for the victims of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Mourners participate during a candlelight vigil held for the victims of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Sutherland Springs, Texas. AP

In the wake of the Las Vegas and Texas mass shooting our communities are left wondering how we can prevent these types of human atrocities from repeatedly occurring. What are the warning signs? Are there cultural cues, specific risk factors and indicators we can identify more readily in individuals in an effort to intervene in a more timely manner? How can we, as a society, create more resources for potential perpetrators and safety for ourselves?

The answers aren’t clear, but they exist amongst a vast complex of health and safety issues. As a community we can create and support a dialogue that transforms everyone into a mental health advocate in some form or another. There is a dire need for more research, education and proactive treatment, namely early intervention therapy, social and emotional support and prevention education.

However, by sharing the facts we already know about such propensities for violence, we can begin to eliminate our stress and anxieties of being helpless bystanders. As one of the local leaders in affordable mental health therapy, the Community Counseling Center (CCC) would like to help guide this important dialogue and offer sound, sage clinical wisdom where it can be applied today.

Identifying characteristics and indicators of homicidal thought and intent

Social isolation continues to be the keystone and hallmark indicator of propensities for the type of homicidal psychopathy displayed by mass shooters. But what creates the isolation?

▪  Early childhood neglect and abuse and subsequent low self-esteem

▪  Environmental factors combined with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses

▪  Family criminal history

▪  Feeling like a “stranger in a strange land” — the loss of a sense of belonging

Resources and treatment options

Where are the forums for social and emotional engagement? Some resources include:

▪  Local 12-Step programs

▪  Faith-based communities

▪  Mental health centers

▪  Schools and universities

▪  Senior centers

▪  Private therapy practices

When a sense of alienation starts to crystallize, individuals need to know there is a place for them to seek treatment, support and start the healing process.

"We can tell you there was a domestic situation going on within this family. The suspect's mother-in-law attended this church," shared Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety during an update about the shooting Monday, Nov. 6, 2017

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Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock lacked a true social network. He was disconnected for many years, starting in early childhood. He grew up in poverty, fear and with a father who wielded guns and robbed banks. What if someone had connected with Stephen at this critical point? Did anyone talk to him, nurture him and let him know he was still allowed to be part of the community?

That he was not his father. If not, then his early childhood sense of alienation likely festered.

The Community Counseling Center is a primary element of this social health engagement package. It takes leadership to engage mental health cases of this magnitude. The voices of community and political leaders must resound to support funding and initiatives that create opportunities for an all-inclusive agency like CCC that welcomes the economically disadvantaged and uninsured.

It’s time to support more available mental healthcare approaches in an effort to get to the human source of the pathology that instigates human destruction. This requires community mental health knowledge be ubiquitous, while high quality treatment and early intervention care is readily available and affordable to all.

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Steve Kadin is director of clinical training and James Statler is the executive director of the Community Counseling Center in San Luis Obispo. To learn more about the topics or programs discussed here, visit cccslo.com, email director@cccslo.com or call the main office at 805-543-7969.

On Sunday, November 5, 2017, a gunman opened fire at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, leaving at least 27 dead and 30 injured.

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