Mental Health and School Shootings

Posted on

Aug 23, 2013

Hi Everyone:

It is always a tragedy when there is a school shooting, even in the most recent case in Dekalb County where no one was injured. There are a few things that strike me about the incident. One is that there was a history of violence and mental health issues in Michael Brandon Hill’s past.  And secondly, the security measures that had been implemented in the school since the Sandy Hook incident were completely ineffective.

The gunman in this case, like the one at Sandy Hook, was not a student at the school and this incident was not about retribution against teachers or fellow students as in the incident at Columbine. But that does not change the fact that the mental health of these individuals was not identified or treated effectively by the system that they both participated in growing up. At Pride Surveys, some of our time is spent working closely with institutions of mental health and education to gauge substance abuse, violence and many other elements that contribute to overall mental health and student achievement through student surveys. These type of services may or may not have had any effect on Hill, but I assume if there had been a system in place to identify and provide treatment for him in the first place, this incident may have never happened.  The same goes for the incidents at Sandy Hook and Columbine.

Another interesting topic that we are not hearing about, is  gun control and arming teachers and/or faculty. This incident is outside of the general preconceptions that people associate with school violence. This incident was a white male with an AK style rifle in a predominately black neighborhood that has a large crime rate and violent gun-related crime rate. If there had been deaths would this have been a hate crime or just another shooting? Would there have been retaliation? Riots? In this case, the officers who were at the scene first were already in the area serving a warrant.

We know that the school had recently installed a buzzer system. We also know that Hill easily circumvented the system by following someone in. How much money did that system cost just to fail its first actual test? How much could it have cost? I’m just guessing, but I bet it cost much more than identifying and treating a troubled individual.

There are no easy answers and we will never be able to solve everyone’s problems.  If there was a bit more time and effort spent on identifying and helping people when these problems arise rather than reacting with harsh punishments, which can traumatize and victimize mentally unstable persons, we could avoid many of the problems I mentioned above.  Thankfully, no one was injured, however there will still be scars from the fear and trauma surrounding the incident. Students, teachers and parents will need help and counseling; I have not heard if any of those efforts are underway or if it will be brushed under the rug and ignored like Hill’s problems seem to have been.

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