School Shootings and Suicide Pt 2: Understanding the Epidemic

Following up from my previous post, here I delve into some of the contributing factors of those who struggle with the pains that may result in tragedies such as suicide or homicidal acts. While this is an incredibly sensitive topic for many readers, these points are taken from a family systems approach and are meant to bring greater understanding to this epidemic and it's underlying causes.

We all carry attachment injuries and wounds. We all carry what I call attachment wounds and injuries. For example, Bob is 10 years of age and was adopted at birth. Over the years, Bob establishes an attachment wound of “rejection,” as he feels no one, including his birth parents, wants him. When wounds or injuries are not properly healed and nurtured, the wounds get infected and bigger. When someone comes around and touches up on these wounds we get triggered.

When individuals stuff, stuff, and STUFF their feelings inside, they may experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, suicide, homicide, self-injurious acts (like cutting), defiance, substance abuse, eating disorders, chronic illnesses or other high-risk behaviors. Most individuals view those struggling or experiencing these problems as weak, but they are the unsung heroes. They are the heroes because they shed light on the things that have been silenced for too long in their family of origin and our society - How strong and resilient they really are.

With that being said, self-sabotaging and destructive behaviors are symptoms of the unresolved and neglected attachment wounds and injuries. The only way to minimize and help heal these wounds are to douse them with empathy, kindness, and compassion.

Appreciate the diverse realities and world views. I have worked with many couples and families that have had a mentality that one person is right and the other is wrong. These are rigid boundaries and cognitive distortions (“it’s my way or the highway,” “I am right and you are wrong”). Children and adolescents’ perspective are often minimized and overlooked – You are a child, what do you know? You see, in a family of five, there are five realities and world views, not just one. Age, gender, financial status, religion, or political stance does not matter. There are still five perspectives, five realities, and five world views within that family system.

Couple or parent-child dyads consist of two perspectives. We have different life experiences, cultures, values, and traditions that influence and color how we see the world and ourselves. This is relevant to the topic of suicide and school shootings because if we took a position of curiosity  toward another person’s worldview then perhaps people would feel more connection, acceptance, security, and understanding. These are the ingredients for any relationship to feel safe and to be a place where one can be truly vulnerable, even about their struggles.

Recognize the risk factors and warning signs of suicide/homicide. The segment below on the red flags was compiled from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It is incredibly important to be aware of these red flags. Don’t ignore or become a bystander to these risk factors and warning signs. Those in struggle already feel isolated and alone, so letting the individual know you are with them and there for them may be exactly what they need.

Risk Factors:

  • Mental health conditions:

    • Depression

    • Substance use problems

    • Bipolar disorder

    • Schizophrenia

    • Personality traits of aggression, mood changes and poor relationships

    • Conduct disorder

    • Anxiety disorders

  • Serious physical health conditions including pain

  • Traumatic brain injury

  • Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs

  • Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment

  • Stressful life events, like rejection, divorce, financial crisis, other life transitions or loss

  • Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide

  • Previous suicide attempts

  • Family history of suicide

  • Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma

Warning Signs:

  • If a person talks about:

    • Killing themselves

    • Feeling hopeless

    • Having no reason to live

    • Being a burden to others

    • Feeling trapped

    • Unbearable pain

  • Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:

    • Increased use of alcohol or drugs

    • Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods

    • Withdrawing from activities

    • Isolating from family and friends

    • Sleeping too much or too little

    • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye

    • Giving away prized possessions

    • Aggression

    • Fatigue

  • People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

    • Depression

    • Anxiety

    • Loss of interest

    • Irritability

    • Humiliation/Shame

    • Agitation/Anger

    • Relief/Sudden Improvement

National Suicide Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
Counseling and Crisis Hotline for Adults: (972) 233-2233
Counseling and Crisis Hotline for Teens: (972) 233-8336

To those whom have lost a loved one through suicide or the school shootings: my deepest condolences. You are courageous, brave, and strong. Remember that you can carry on your loved one’s story. 

To anyone reading this who can relate to the experiences of pain, challenging family dynamics, or anything else in this post that you feel you are also going through: know that you are not alone. Help is available to you; reach out and be a part of the fight for health and mental wellness.