I’m not doing this without a heavy sigh. Well, several. This came down the pike:
Briefly, some kid with two knives ran around stabbing and cutting fellow students at his high school in suburban Pittsburgh. No motive has been discerned as of this time.
The questions that go through my mind at a time like this include:
- What in the unadulterated hell is going on here on a societal level as well as in the suspect’s microcosm?
- Which, if any, psychotrophics was the suspect taking?
- Has the suspect ever had a workup by a qualified mental health provider and a healthcare provider who takes a holistic approach and doesn’t just scribble a prescription to make the suspect sit quietly in class? Probably not, but one can dream.
For those of you who don’t know, I graduated with an MS in psych in the late ’80’s. My first and only job in the field was at a community-based mental health and addictions treatment center. Prozac, touted as a cure-all for mood disorders, came on the market at the same time.
Indulge me with a little shop talk: it’s a selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitor, or SSRI. Drugs in that family lengthen the time that it takes for the brain to reabsorb the seratonin, the feel-good neurochemical produced when a person is in a good place with themselves. Too little leads to depression. Too much leads to suicidal ideation and delusions.
Now, I know several people who have greatly benefitted from modern psychiatric medication. They are adults whose brains were fully developed when they began taking appropriately prescribed meds. I also have memories of calls from clients who went on Prozac and developed suicidal ideation within a few days of beginning treatment. Peeling someone off a roof is no one’s idea of a good time.
Another class of drugs that may help-or not-are the ones widely prescribed for ADD and ADHD. The theory is that people living with either condition are deficient in internal stimulation, causing them to be unable to focus on what’s in their surroundings and leading to impulsive behavior. Many of them are in the amphetamine family. As in speed. And you don’t outgrow ADD/HD, either.
AD/HD has also been linked to chemicals in the food supply and to processed food. Back in the ’50’s, a pediatrician named Dr. Feingold had noticed a spike in consults for behavior problems. One night as he read the paper, he saw a story with a graph depicting the rise in food processing after the end of World War II. He asked the parents to make more of their food at home to avoid sugar and chemicals, and this obtained good results. So was born the Feingold Diet.
Again, I know several people who have had their lives made liveable with appropriate medications such as these. However, for example, the kids responsible for the carnage at Columbine were on meds that had been linked to increases in violent behavior.
How, then, do we respond to the near-weekly episodes of violence at schools? “Complex” doesn’t begin to cover the question. In the days to come, there will be another round of finger pointing at the parents, the school, violent video games, and so on.
What I’d like to see is our culture taking a collective step back and asking why we need violent entertainment, why we need to arm ourselves to the teeth for trips to the grocery store, and why we need to implement solutions where someone gets hurt as the first line of defense instead of the last. I’d like to see food without dyes and additives linked with craziness priced affordably. Let’s add in holistic and alternative treatments as the remedies of choice and meds as the last line of defense instead of the first. And let us not forget lots and lots of time in nature to help children understand that everyone and everything is a part of the web of life, and that no one is ever really alone.
That is the long answer.
The short: I don’t know.
That is the long and long term answer.