Interdisciplinary Review of General, Forensic, Prison and Military Psychiatry and Psychology and the related subjects of Behavior and Law with the occasional notes and comments by Michael Novakhov, M.D. (Mike Nova).
Saturday, December 28, 2013
FBI focus on mental health helps deter shooters
FBI focus on mental health helps deter shooters
Thursday, December 26, 2013 12:05 PM EST
Dec. 14 marked the one-year anniversary of the day the nation was shocked to learn that 20 young children and six adults had been murdered in Newtown, Conn.
The families of those who were killed continue to mourn, with some of them turning toward charity efforts or advocacy to deal with their grief. The community as a whole is still shaken, and the nation joined them in remembrances of that terrible day.
Because it involved the deaths of so many children, in their own elementary school no less, the Newtown shooting rocked the public consciousness much more deeply than even the other tragic mass shootings in the recent past.
According to a survey conducted by USA Today, 934 people have died in mass shootings over the past seven years. Mass shootings are described as those in which four or more people are killed. Most of those deaths were domestic violence or shootings by a coworker, neighbor or acquaintance.
We remember these devastating events well, such as the Columbine, Colo. school shooting in 1999, in which 13 people died; the 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz. at which six people died and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords survived a gunshot to the head; the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. that left 12 people dead; and the Washington, D.C. navy yard shooting in September in which 12 people were murdered.
Authorities say these types of incidents are rare, and when compared to the murders and other violent crimes that happen every day, the statistics certainly bear out that claim. Mass shootings, however, are far more jarring because the shooters rarely seem to have much focus or motive, making all of us potential victims whenever we are in a public setting. Mass shootings leave us all fearful of going about our daily lives, with attacks happening at work places, schools, movie theaters and meeting places. No one wants to die that way, at the hands of an unprovoked shooter and for no cause.
But we are making progress.
The FBI recently announced that its Behavioral Analysis Unit has helped prevent nearly 150 shootings and violent attacks in the past year, the Associated Press reports, partly by directing would-be killers to mental health professionals. The unit has received about three new cases a week, according to the unit’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Center chief, referred by federal, state, local and campus law enforcement and schools, businesses and houses of worship.
This FBI operation receives the reports of suspicious behavior that people believe may lead to violence. They then investigate and deal with the person as needed, whether it’s an arrest for illegal activity or just a need for professional help. The unit was launched in the fall of 2010, but flown mostly under the radar. We’re glad to see it is having success, and to know that there is a resource in place.
The push for increased restrictions on gun ownership, including a ban on assault weapons, was unsuccessful at the federal level this past year, even in the wake of the Newtown massacre – despite high-profile advocates that included shooting survivors and family members. This debate is sure to continue indefinitely as Second Amendment enthusiasts clash with gun control advocates, and in the meantime, at least the FBI is providing a clearing house for people to access with concerns before a tragedy occurs. Clearly, mental health is a more successful approach at this time than gun control, due to the politics of it all.
In the meantime, schools have improved their security measures to help avert or at least minimize attacks. The shooting at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo. on Friday, Dec. 13, in which a student was left in a coma after being shot, could have been much more deadly had the school security officer not moved in as quickly as he did, causing the shooter to kill himself before he had a chance to attack more people.
No agency or security officer can stop every would-be shooter, however, and many who plot violent action won’t accept help or directly tell others that they are in distress. But at least this FBI unit’s proactive work can help some of those who are clearly at risk of committing such an atrocity before it’s too late. And it’s up to every one of us, from school officials to stay-at-home moms, to take precautions, keep an eye out for those warning signs and report our concerns.
• • •
Today’s editorial was written by Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski on behalf of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Kristen by calling 282-1535, ext. 322, or via email at email@example.com.