Mass shootings continue to terrorize our country. We ended 2021 with 692 mass shootings, per the Gun Violence Archive. To date this year, there have been 309 mass shootings, including the Highland Park July 4th shooting. These numbers are beyond staggering. Schools, churches, grocery stores and now community parades have all become targets.
These mass shootings, particularly among young people, underscore the urgency of addressing our mental health crisis in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic. Long lockdowns, the end of a structured school day, no interaction with other students, loneliness and an increased addiction to social media all exacerbated the rising rates of mental illness.
According to Warren Farrell, author of the book, “The Boy Crisis,” fatherless homes are a leading factor in the increase of mental illness, addiction and suicide among males. All seven of the mass shootings in the United States that have killed more than 10 people have been done by boys without a father living in the home from Sandy Hook to Highland Park.
Statistics show that young men in their late teens and early 20’s overwhelmingly commit mass shootings. Such individuals are nearly always socially isolated, fixated on violence, and living at home. Most exhibit observable mental health symptoms ahead of the shooting. Many announce their intentions before they act. They post threats on social media and tell their family and friends in person. One or more family members often suspect or have some awareness of the potential danger of their loved one. This is a crucial opportunity for intervention, but many people don’t know what to do with this information. Some people don’t want to get involved for fear of offending others. If we hear something that gives us pause, say something and report it to the police.
For parents faced with troubling behavior, reporting their child to police for an act they might commit can be a wrenching decision. People need to recognize warning signs and report them to protect their loved one, themselves and their communities. It takes only one deranged individual who is on a trajectory toward violence to kill many innocent people.
Dottie Pacharis, a former citizen member of the editorial board for The News-Press, is a mental health advocate
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