We, as a society, romanticize depression, violence and death on social media and in video games. Then politicians and talking heads on television and radio pontificate on issues that many really do not understand and are unwilling to confront. Unfortunately, we live in a culture which devalues life where we become fascinated by one event and we do not see the long-term effect. We are then free to move on, leaving families and communities in real pain still struggling for real answers.
We have to bravely confront mental health issues. Social media in particular has gone from support of people who are clinically depressed to glamorizing the ideas of sadness. Samara Khan writing in Ethos News points out that “depression is a very real, and often very debilitating mental illness that starkly contrasts with the pretty pastel photos on social media.” Dr. Mark Reinecke, chief psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, told The Atlantic: “During the vulnerable years during which adolescents seek out self-affirmation and recognition from others, this new, easy promise of being recognized as strong, beautiful, and mysterious…can be very tempting.” Reinecke concludes “Too often, it just leads to more teenagers believing and feeling they are depressed, self-pitying, self-harming.”
Sheriff Scott Israel, of Broward County, Florida is pleading with lawmakers to give police and doctors more power to involuntarily hospitalize people for psychiatric evaluation over violent and threatening social media posts. However, the reality is many mental health professionals cannot even get a person with active psychosis and suicidal ideation hospitalized. Our current health care situation forces hospitals to turn people away because they are over-crowded, understaffed, underfunded, and have no authority to keep anyone anymore. We need to strengthen our laws and focus on mental health. In addition, more guidance counselors in schools and increased professional development for all teachers to help identify problem students should be considered.
The majority of school shootings are done by males. Researchers seemingly cannot understand why this occurs. We don’t dare address the topic of the psychological castration of the modern male or to combat what the academic world calls “toxic masculinity.” Author and philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers has repeatedly challenged the issue for nearly two decades. Sommers noted a Bureau of Justice Statistics report on the decline in violence at schools, is at a historic low. She observed “that while violence may be built into the core of a small coterie of sociopathic boys, most boys are not sociopathic. As far back as 1965 Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called attention to the social dangers of raising boys without benefit of a paternal presence. He wrote in a 1965 study for the Labor Department, “A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future—that community asks for and gets chaos.”
Alexa Curtis wrote in Rolling Stone: For teens who “are battling mental health issues, witnessing the end of a life” as easily as television portrayed it “could help desensitize kids to this very serious matter.” She then adds: “There will always be people who feel like they have no one to talk to, and those are the people most at risk whom we have to figure out how to reach.” Who can children talk to when they have the urge to hurt themselves or others? If the answer is nobody, then more teenagers taking their lives and the lives of others will only continue. Chances are they don’t like Mondays, they probably won’t like any other day of the week either.
JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Professional Educators of Tennessee is a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.