Mental Health Expert: Parents Must Stop Being In Denial About Kids, Violence

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Exposure to violent video games. A failure to take medication to treat mental illness or a development disorder. Access to assault weapons. And is it time to profile White males?

These issues and questions have been raised in the aftermath of one of the worst mass shootings in modern American history. A week ago, 20-year-old Adam Lanza went on a shooting rampage, killing 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where he lived with his mother, Nancy, whom he also killed. He pumped several bullets in her head before heading out of the door and turning the gun on himself at the school after the shootings.

While it’s difficult to know Lanza’s mental state and what steps his mother took to seek treatment for him, experts are weighing in based on what they know from news reports of interviews with neighbors and people in the community who say he was in need of mental health treatment.

“Most children who play violent video games do not commit crimes or violent acts,” Jeff Gardere, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, told NewsOne. “But some youth can be at risk for violence if there is mental illness and an oversaturation of violent video gaming, according to some studies. There have been studies showing a link between violent gaming and acting out because these kids become desensitized. The answer is about parents finding the proper balance and not allowing the child to isolate.”

Law enforcement authorities are still trying to piece together what led to the horrific crime in which Lanza, known as withdrawn and anti-social, used high-powered weapons obtained from his mother. She reportedly took him to shooting ranges and the three weapons, including a Bushmaster rifle, used in the attack were all legal. The shooting prompted President Barack Obama to appoint Vice President Joe Biden to push to strengthen gun laws.

Lanza was reportedly isolated and spent hours in a windowless basement den, playing violent video games, which has caused speculation about the desensitization to violence. And some reports have emerged that Nancy Lanza was preparing to commit her son to a psychiatric facility for treatment of Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, and unspecified mental health issues.

Experts say she took the right steps, but his problems reportedly went on for a while. Mental health experts suggest that parents seek help immediately if a teen or young adult shows signs of trouble, including antisocial behavior, chronic defiance, harms self or destroys property of others, and engages in criminal behavior, according to a report on Yahoo.

“This is not just about mental health,” Gardere said. “It’s certainly not just about gun control, but I think a combination of both those things. We’re going to have to reform gun laws, but we also have to look at the fact that we have a serious hole in the mental health procedures and entitlement parities as they stand today.”

Overall, the nation faces a treatment problem for young males, who are at the onset of severe mental illness, including schizophrenia, paranoid schizophrenia, extreme rage and severe personality disorders, including schizoid or schizotypal or even some sort of conduct disorder that may turn into something pathological, Gardere said.

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