There is a silent epidemic happening in our country of young teens, most specifically male youths. I call it silent because you don’t always see it. It is often hidden from others. In fact, it hides behind a facade that everything is okay, when in reality, something is brewing.
Here are some prime examples of this silent epidemic.
17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis killed 10 people in Santa Fe High School – he was supposedly bullied and rejected by a girl that he liked. Noted as being quiet and to himself.
Nikolas Cruz slaughtered at least 17 students at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS – a loner, supposedly had impulse issues, was bullied, had major losses in his life with the death of his parents.
A 15-year-old teen with the help of two friends, strangled and stabbed his mother to death in Maine because they moved.
16 year-old beats friend to death with baseball bat over jealousy of a girl he liked.
This silent epidemic is called Anger. It’s an emotion that is in each and every one of us. This includes growth spurting hormonal teenagers. Most teens express their anger through yelling, slamming doors, running off, or finding a place to be alone for hours. Those types of responses are expected. However, for some teens, their anger differs. Their anger lingers and builds quietly, layer upon layer, with no filters or boundaries in place. It lays dormant inside until an event triggers a volcanic eruption of violence that knows no limits.
From previous years to the present, we have seen headlines of teens who have harmed or murdered their own friends, families, and total strangers. Mass shootings have been at the forefront of news media casting light on those who have acted out to avenge for a wrong done to them.
Although mental illness continues to be the excuse from society for these violent crimes, the truth is, the majority of violent cases by teens were not caused by mental illness. In fact, some of the common causes were being bullied by peers or those in authority, living in broken homes, rejection and abandonment, bad influences such as gangs, hate groups, video games, and media violence. The list is endless. There was and still is one very large component intertwined in those crimes – anger.
For the mass amount of youth who have committed violent crimes, many have said that they were angry prior to the crime. What were they angry about? They were angry at their parents, angry at their friends, angry at those who humiliated them or made them feel worthless. They were angry at society, angry at being looked upon unfairly, and a jealous anger that they never knew they had.
Multiply those emotions of anger with negative environments and you now have a teen in crisis. Coupled with other issues such as depression, suicidal ideology, being bullied, and so forth, there is now a set up of violent proportions.
A post I wrote several years ago on young males being out of control continues to be viewed over and over. Parents are at a loss on how to help their teen who has so much anger. Some parents don’t realize the dynamics of what this anger could do in the long run.
So what is the focus of their anger? They are angry over being disciplined. They are angry at their peers for being bullied or treated unfairly. They get angry when their emotions are hurt such as in a broken heart or out of jealous rage They are angry at the losses in their life. Their anger is penned against those in leadership whether it is government authority or parental authority, and so much more.
The majority of this anger affects both young males and females, although males are more dominant in outbursts of anger physically. If you look at statistics of violent crimes by youth https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/yv-datasheet.pdf, males lead in those statistics more than females. However, anger is not gender biased. Anger is just a symptom of something deeper that is going on within the person. Unfortunately that symptom takes on a life of its own and leads each teen down a violent path of destruction.
There are some common threads to each story. Many teens reach a point of no return from that anger. They have succumbed to the idea that because there is no going back, they will often join others with the same type of anger or revengeful thinking and do the unthinkable. They may also idolize those who had the guts to use that anger for their own type of justice such as we have seen with the recent shootings.
Our society struggles to find an answer to these horrendous massecures and killings so they deem mental illness as the issue. Yet, through all of the statistics on young male violence, the percentage of violent teen offenders with mental illness are low. Gun control is another hot topic. Again, you don’t need a gun to kill. A teen will utilize any tool to do damage through their anger.
What has come to light after a violent event by a teen suspects/convicted killers is that many of them struggled with low self-worth, were often bullied, were part of gang family for acceptance, came from abusive homes, and had a very painful life.
This would explain why some of these same suspects also took their own lives after the crime. They didn’t have anything left to live for. For others, they wanted their victims to remember the hurt they had and again through anger, intentionally wanted their victims to feel the same pain that they experienced. Don’t forget, we live in a world filled with aggression that also honors violence (such as in certain countries where it is acceptable).
Every time our country has been confronted with another shooting or murder, we try to add another gun law or believe more fears towards mental illness to gain more resources. Neither one of those changes saved another person from dying. We are and will continue to have more violence such as this. Whether it is through the use of a gun, a bomb, a knife, or some other inscineous way.
Until we teach our young men and women on how to positively address their anger, we will continue to see more violence across the states.
As a Christian parent, my duty to my children includes evaluating how they process their hurts, pain, embarrassment, sadness, and yes, anger. If one of those emotions turn into a behavior that is not acceptable or crosses a boundary line that would hurt others or themselves, then immediately counseling must be sought.
What if you don’t see any signs of a problem? Ask some of these hard questions, to yourself and to your teen.
- Could my teen’s anger get out of control to the point he/she would harm others or self?
- Does my angry teen have friends who participate with hate groups?
- Has my teen who has been bullied been left with an anger to take revenge?
- Has my teen in crisis shown interest in any shape or form of gang friendships?
- Is my angry teen withdrawn or becoming a loner?
- Is my angry teen changing his/her appearance, behaviors, friends, attitude?
- Is my teen’s sympathy towards others changed towards apathetic behavior?
- Does my teen struggle with anger, depression, suicidal thoughts?
If you have answered yes to any of those questions above, then you need to seek psychological support for you and your teen. There is nothing to be ashamed of. You would be taking an out of control situation into a controlled environment in which help will be given for your child.
What other avenues can you take?
- Anger-management classes – how to process anger is a way that would feel safe and redirect that emotion to a place of resolve.
- Find more role models or organizations (State Family Resources) that can help your teen take that anger and turn it into something productive (such as rebuilding homes for families).
- Encourage and support your teen in a hobby that they really like.
- Be in daily communication with your teen (light topics that open to heavier topics)
- Monitor social media, video games, friends – find alternatives together
- Work with your teen to find new goals and aspirations
- Keep calm before, during, and after that rage. Hard to do but it keeps the situations from exploding into bigger problems
- The louder they get, the quieter you get. *A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 NIV
- SOS! Don’t try to solve your teens problems yourself. They need professional support and help.
The good news is this. You don’t have to go through this alone. By getting your own counsel for wisdom and discernment for your teen, you will be strengthened and encouraged that you don’t have to be in battle against your child but be in battle FOR your child. You do this through good counsel, God’s guidance and prayer for your teen.
Your teen is hurting just as much as you are, and God is hurting for the both of you, so let us break this silent epidemic once and for all!
Photography Credits – Jose A Thompson at Unsplash