Mass shootings continue to terrorize our country. We ended 2021 with 692 mass shootings, according to Gun Violence Archive. So far this year, there have been 309 mass shootings, including the July 4 shooting in Highland Park. These numbers are beyond staggering. Schools, churches, grocery stores and now community parades have all become targets.
These mass shootings, especially 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, lack of interaction with other students, loneliness and an increased reliance on social media have all exacerbated rising rates of mental illness.
According to Warren Farrell, author of the book “The Boy Crisis”, fatherless homes are a major factor in the increase in mental illness, substance abuse and suicide among men. The seven mass shootings in the United States that killed more than 10 people were committed by fatherless boys living in the Sandy Hook home in Highland Park.
Statistics show that young men in their late teens and early twenties are massively committing mass shootings. These people are almost always socially isolated, obsessed with violence and living at home. Most have observable mental health symptoms prior to the shooting. Many announce their intentions before acting. They post threats on social media and tell their family and friends about them in person. One or more family members often suspect or have some awareness of their loved one’s potential danger. 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 makes us think, say something and report it to the police.
For parents faced with troubling behavior, reporting their child to the police for an act they may be committing can be a heartbreaking decision. People need to recognize the warning signs and report them to protect their loved one, themselves and their communities. It only takes one deranged individual on a violent trajectory to kill many innocent people.
Dottie Pacharis, former citizen member of The News-Press editorial board, is a mental health advocate