In recent days, coverage of the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio have revived the stories of several prominent cases of crime involving young people. Along with those horrific crimes is the subject of mental illness. Two in particular made widespread headlines across the nation highlighting mental illness as the reason for the crimes.
In December of 2012, Adam Lanza from Newtown, Connecticut, showed warning signs of a severe mental illness that many either missed or ignored. He fatally killed 20 children as well as six adult staff workers and his mother before ending his own life.
In May of 2014, two preteen girls followed the directions of Slender Man, a fictional character on the internet. Through fear and yet obedience, they attempted to kill their best friend to show allegiance to Slender Man. They were both evaluated as having a mental illness.
Today, thousands of young people have been affected by varying degrees of mental illness. Parents of children and teens diagnosed with a mental illness are more worried today than ever. The question that ponders in their mind is, “Could my child be the next murderer?”
First of all, slow down and stop the brakes on those thoughts. Here’s why.
Dean E. Murphy of the Baltimore Sun wrote regarding juvenile killers : Several recent studies of adolescent killers point to family influences among the possible causes of the violence. By and large, the studies dismiss the widespread popular belief that juvenile murderers are usually psychotic or kill because of bizarre mental health problems, concluding instead that many young murderers have been victims themselves. Juvenile Killers
The dated article remains the same even for today. Thousands of children/teens are dealing with some type of mental illness. However, it is rare when a child/teen with a mental illness kills other people. Many crimes committed by teens today are attributed to the breakdown of the family such as: father role not present, being a victim of abuse themselves, involved in gangs, and caught in the addiction of drugs.
Another factor that encourages adolescents to commit various types of crimes are: over stimulation of social media that highlights murder-suicide, gun violence and drugs. This is often portrayed through video games, websites, movies, and novel books.
Despite the fact that many teens can decipher and utilize social media in many forms, a teen with a medium to severe mental illness could have an opposite reaction. Children/teens with mental illness absorb what they see and hear differently than those without a mental illness. They are also more prone to risky and dangerous behaviors when not under the care of a mental health professional and/or medication. Even so, that does not mean that they are killers.
Another point to look at is the acceptance or non-acceptance of your child having a mental illness. This is crucial when help is needed and not sought after. Parents need to be more willing to acknowledge that their child is struggling with a mental illness. That is the first step in giving their child support. Secondly, receiving therapy and medication as another tool to help a child/teen cope with their illness is imperative to gain control of their symptoms and behaviors.
When a child’s mind is broken from mental illness, they are not always capable to handle, comprehend or reason with upsetting events or roller coaster emotions. To decipher right from wrong, real from unreal, truth from untruth becomes more difficult. They need proper guidance to sift through those thought processes. They also need to learn how to articulate how they are feeling and shown coping skills to overcome stressful situations. Not all mental illnesses are the same either. What affects one child may or may not affect another. Each child has their own limits of mental stability, strengths and weaknesses.
What is important in the success of your teen is to communicate and work with the mental health professionals and counselors. It is their job to spend time understanding and observing your child to see what could be beneficial or harmful to their state of mind. This helps everyone move together towards one goal, which is the safety and health of your child/teen.
Some mental illnesses are more serious than others and need constant supervision to protect your child as well as others. The mental health system is not perfect in any way and still needs much work to help families who struggle with a child in mental crisis. However, the more knowledge, connections, and education, the more the child has a mentally strong foundation.
For your child to have a chance for growth into adulthood with peace and a healthy future, parents must face the fact that they have a child with a mental illness. Children need their parent’s support and understanding of their needs.
To answer the question as to whether or not your child with a mental illness will murder, I believe that when we pray for God’s covering and protection for our child as well as being involved with the care of professionals, then “No.” is the answer.
We as parents must continue the journey for good mental health as we reach out to others within the family, the Church, medical professionals and of course counsel with God’s guidance and wisdom.
To learn more about mental health and support, please check out the Mental Health links below.
BOOKS ON MENTAL ILLNESS
I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help; How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment by Xaviar Amador
If Your Adolescent Has Depression or BiPolar Disorder: An Essential Resource for Parents by Dwight L. Evans and Linda Wasmer Andrews