How many more deaths must occur before we take action to prevent future acts of violence in this country? While discussion around limiting gun access is important, as a mental health specialist I can speak to the need for early identification of potential perpetrators. Our current methods of identifying and treating persons with mental health issues rely on checklists and criterion-based measures such as the DSM, but only after symptoms are clearly observable. This model does not focus on preventive action. As a specialist in cross- disciplinary assessment and treatment of young children, I can say that we currently have methods to identify stress responses and vulnerability as young as infancy and toddlerhood. Most of the perpetrators in the past year have had long histories of mental health concerns voiced by their parents who repeatedly sought help for their children. This is disheartening news for those of us in the mental health profession. Protocols for identifying and treating stress responses in children exist; however, we must look to the roots of the problems in order to find opportunities for prevention. We need to look beyond our current methods to include cutting edge neurodevelopmental principles to detect and treat signs of emotional distress before the pathways that lead to murderous rages are set in place.
Mona M. Delahooke, Ph.D.