Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Teenagers, guns and mental health

They a very good, detailed and somewhat depressing explanation in The Atlantic about how you can never expect to have a system that catches all potential teenage gun killers in the US before they act.   It gives examples of the pre-killing behaviour of some of the guys (it's virtually always guys) who have been notorious mass shooters.  

It's always tedious hearing Right wingnuts saying that the problem is someone should have done something before the killing, when less than 10 States have "red flag" laws that might, in some cases, work to remove their guns.  And besides, for killers too young to own their own gun, they often just use their parents.

The article also notes that there has been a clear decrease in mental health beds available for those who need a lengthy and proper assessment.  And there are other complications too:
A parent of a child 14 or younger can legally commit him to a mental-health facility without an overt act—but generally, only for three days. And here, there is a practical problem: scarcity of treatment. Liza Long says that after Eric put a knife to her throat, he was taken to the emergency room, where they administered a drug to calm him down. Then the hospital informed her they had no beds for him in the psychiatric hospital. In fact, Eric’s social worker told her the only way to get Eric the mental-health services he needed was to press criminal charges against him. “So those were my options,” she says. “‘We have no idea what’s wrong with your kid. We think he needs a psychiatric bed, but there’s nothing available. Here’s a drug that will knock him out.’” She took him home with a prescription for an antipsychotic drug called Zyprexa.

Caldwell hears this all the time. “Twenty-five years ago,” he says, “if you had insurance, you could probably get the kid put into a psychiatric unit for 30 days for an evaluation and try to get a handle on what's going on. Those beds have just disappeared.”

Aside from the practical, legal, and emotional barriers—after all, who wants to commit their child?—parents have another incentive to keep their secret close, as Nancy Lanza did: fear of losing her other children. Several specialists and parents told me that social workers often believe that a child’s erratic behavior stems from abuse in the home. One woman with a violent daughter described how the local Child Protective Services department accused her and her husband of beating their daughter and depriving her of food. The agency threatened to take away their other children and investigated the parents for a year before determining there was no abuse. For her part, Liza Long lost custody of her two younger children after she published a heartfelt blog post headined “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother.” After the essay spread online, the judge granted her ex-husband full custody of the two children if she insisted on raising Eric. “Why won’t families talk about this?” Long asks. “That’s why.”
And finally, the obvious:
One study tracked school shootings in three dozen countries—incidents in which two or more people died. Half of those shooting incidents occurred in the United States. Given that, according to some studies, Americans are no more emotionally troubled than people in Europe and Canada, the stark difference is guns. Children outside the U.S. “don’t have access to AR-15s or Glocks or other weapons that our kids have access to,” says Dewey Cornell. “That’s a huge glaring obvious problem. It’s obvious to scholars in the field. It’s obvious to folks in other countries. For some reason it’s not obvious to our politicians.”

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