Tag Archive | Violence

Mental Health and Gun Control – 19 Years

This past month has been a terrible time for those of us in Columbus, Ohio. First, we lost a juvenile who was in court and, because of his violent behaviors, was subsequently shot outside of court by a deputy sheriff. Then we lost two respected police officers in the very small town of Westerville. Both involved mental health issues of the victim in one case and the perpetrator in another. In the past week, our country lost a total of 5 police officers, including Westerville. We lost a total of 17 teens and school staff in one high school in Florida.

High school shootings have been going on since 1999. Now we are hearing the media say FL was worse than Columbine. This isn’t a competition to see whomever shoots the most kids wins. All school shootings are traumatic, are equal and should never have happened. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.

We need to stop blaming and start taking action. Political activists want to blame and act as if it is the Republicans fault that high school shootings exist; when in fact we have had both Democrat and Republican presidents since 1999. Over the years, both sides have made statements about offering love and prayers, obviously they are going to say that because it would be heartless not to. What is worse though is that both sides have said “This will never happen in our country again.” Unfortunately we have now seen 19 years of this happening again in our country. We have seen this happen at the college level, high schools and an elementary school. It is time to stop blaming one side or the other and get to the table and have discussions. To start with, this does not belong on a lobbyist table, it needs to be a discussion of professionals in the mental health industry, police officers, forensic specialists as well as the leaders in the NRA and they need to listen to one another. Listening is the key ingredient in making change, not trying to get votes.

I have been in the mental health profession since high school shootings began. I was trained in holistic thought processes so I am not prone to listening to one side; I try to hear the whole story. You can’t understand anything unless you are looking at the big picture and the long term effects. I have lots of prejudices, believe me, yet I work with people from all different backgrounds, including those I have opinions about. However, because I believe people have a right to be heard and it is hard for me not to have empathy when I hear them and have taken them into my fold as a therapist, I am able to set my opinions aside for this client or clients and provide them the support that they need. After all, working with someone in therapy, I believe, is helping them to become a better person. This is what it means to be a professional.

America has become a Roe v. Wade in the sense that everything is a Pro-Life v. Pro-Choice extreme thinking conversation. No one ever listens to the other side. It is idiotic and stupid when one side is incapable of listening to what the other side has to say. It is ridiculous to hold an opinion that you are right and they are wrong. Sure we all joke and say, “but I am right,” but to actually believe this to the point that you can’t possibly sit down with your opposing view neighbor and have a cup of coffee and hear what each other has to say is beyond sad. It is disturbing and this is what our country has to offer right now.

All these people who get on bandwagons and say they are “tolerant” or “celebrate diversity,” are online yelling at the other side and giving their biases about race, religion or culture. When we are behaving in such a hostile environment as we are on social media, how can we expect that a mentally unwell person is not going to take advantage of this? If Kathy Griffin isn’t capable of understanding that there is a line you don’t cross when it comes to shouting your hatred toward the president of the United States, how in the world can you expect a mentally unwell person to understand and intellectualize what is happening online?

It has become common place to hear about shootings and we have become immune to this. We get an endorphin rush when it happens and a week later we forget. What do we expect is going to happen to someone who has mental health problems and is paying attention to all of this online. We get to be voyeurs but they internalize it and fantasize about it and feel empowered by this.

Madeline Albright (the first female Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton) spoke in San Jose, CA sometime in the early 2000’s and I went to listen to her talk. She spoke about the split in politics and how it has become so damaging to the D.C. atmosphere. When she began her journey in politics, it was normal for Republicans and Democrats to eat together, party together even walk down the street together. Our country being divided to the point of not being able to say who you voted for without getting spit on, means we do not live in a safe place and we cannot expect things to change; as long as we behave in this manner. If our politicians can’t behave like professionals and respect their own colleagues, how can we citizens be expected to behave like decent people? Right now the Democrats are just being sore losers and this is what we teach our children across the country not to do when they are on a team. Republicans were sore losers during Obama; worrying about a birth certificate. Each politician who wins the presidency has 4-8 years in which they can be elected to serve. Be patient and it will be your turn. The winners go in cycles; it is just the way we vote. There has not been one president that has been perfect and not one who has not been narcissistic.

There has been 19 years of school shootings though, with both Democrats and Republicans serving our country. We do need gun control – obviously – no one needs an assault weapon. We should be grown up and mature enough to understand that no one is saying you can’t carry a gun. It is one thing to carry a gun in your holster, on your belt that you are legally allowed to carry or a hunter with a rifle in the back of their truck on a rack. It is one thing to have a gun legally and one illegally. The topic of Mental Health needs to be brought in and we need to be more strict about mental health assessments when carrying a gun. Perhaps everyone needs to have a mental health assessment in order to legally purchase a gun. It wouldn’t be a bad idea. I have family that all carry guns, they would not like to be inconvenienced. However, I am sure all the families who are victims of the 19 years of school shootings, did not like to be inconvenienced either. When the “right to keep and bear arms” amendment was signed into the constitution, we were a different world. Back then it was cowboys and Indians and revolutions that made a positive difference in this country. School shootings make a negative difference in this country, it harms our psyche and destroys our families.

I am listening to children tell me they are afraid to go to school. They are having panic attacks whenever there are noises at school. Instead of just a tornado drill or an earthquake drill, they are having to learn how to hide from a school shooter. I am hearing parents who want to put their kids in private education or home school them. Is this what we are going to come to because adult professionals are not capable of coming to the table and reach an agreement?

Then of course you have the criminal world. No matter what we do, criminals and mentally unwell people can get access to a gun out on the streets. It is not too hard to  go into a bad neighborhood and within a few minutes find someone walking down the street who knows someone who has one to sell. Having worked in bad neighborhoods and spent many conversations talking to people who lived there, I am aware of how easy this is. Having spoken to people who have been drug addicts or alcoholics, I have heard many stories of how easy it is to get what you want if you need a fix. This means we need to have tighter laws about what happens to people who are caught selling guns illegally. The guy who sold the gun to the perpetrator of the two police officers in Westerville was found and brought in. I have no idea at this point what will happen to him or what the laws are currently. I do know that in California, where I used to work on the streets, a crime carries a stiffer penalty if it is gang related. Do we have strict enough laws for the people selling guns illegally, nationwide? Shouldn’t they get the same attention as the perpetrator, since they knew the reason for buying was not for something good? Wouldn’t they be an accessory to the crime?

These are the questions we need to be asking. We need to have discussions about this within our communities and amongst our professionals and come to some answers that we then present to Washington. But it is time for us to behave like grown-ups and professionals and listen with the purpose of coming up with a solution. I am tired of hearing that the NRA has control over Congress. What does this mean? It means that they have control over the lives of our children and grandchildren. Again, if they have had control over Congress they have had it for at least the 19 years we have been concerned and this has been over terms of both Republican and Democrat presidents.

What is a solution that is workable? What is a solution that is going to be tougher on crime, stricter on mental health awareness and reporting and one that makes sense and will protect our children, our families and our country? Stop blaming and start forming community discussion groups, in person because we aren’t capable of having talks online. Bring all the professionals involved to a table and have a discussion that is going to create positive change in our country. We don’t need an assault weapon to go hunting in the woods or to protect our family. A simple gun or rifle will work fine. Let’s show our children that we are capable of making this world a safer place.


Religious Bullies

Being bullied over religion has gone on since time began. It starts in childhood when parents force their children to believe as they do. At first it seems okay because the youngster has no perception of life other than what they are told. It even makes sense that a child is taught some values.  When they are teenagers going into young adulthood, this is when they begin to question their identity. Some kids begin to wonder if what their parents believe makes any sense.

My own recollection as a teen, I questioned religion with the minister at our church and I found that his answers did not make sense to me. While I wanted to practice devotedly, I found myself wondering about life more and more. As a senior in high school, I wrote a paper on religious cults for Political Science. This paper determined whether I was ready to graduate, it was a sample of what college work would be like. Even though cults are not exactly a serious religion or paths in which I felt destined to follow, researching this paper put me on the trail of other religions that I did not know existed. I was not allowed to believe anything except what my parents knew and understood. Luckily my journey took me thousands of miles away and I took the path that made the most sense – to me. A quest for spiritual knowledge and enlightenment.

I believe that everyone has a right to their opinions. There are those I meet that I find so jaded, uneducated, twisted and frustrated but they are in this place because this is where they need to be in life. We choose which direction we will head down whether it is consciously or unconsciously. It does not matter that I or you think they are full of it, right now this person we have met, unless they ask for our guidance, we must let them be.

A lack of tolerance for religion worldwide is hideous, ignorant and childish. Killing people in the name of religion is no different from a man killing his wife or a serial killer out for bodies. Violence and murder are not justified when it comes to your vision of a creator.  Whatever you call your God or Goddess, there is no belief that exists which has at its foundation hate. There is no religious text that calls for hatred toward one’s fellow-man. Religious texts talk about wars in the name of God, from a historical context, and this is often misinterpreted to mean life is about killing and destruction and ego and narcissism. Religious texts also talk about loving thy neighbor, which is also misinterpreted to mean only if they believe as I do.

The destruction we see in our world today is caused by bullies not Gods. It is caused by people who are afraid to live in a world that does not believe as they do. Fear causes hatred and violence, not religion. Poverty causes cult leaders to prey on wounded souls, sweep them up with food and money and force them into rigid, destructive beliefs. Bullies picket other religions. Bullies picket abortion clinics. Bullies make movies that make fun of others beliefs. Bullies kill people who do not believe as they would. Bullies are the perpetrators of hatred in this world, not religion.

People who are enlightened beings, who are spiritually in line with their God/Goddess, who are good neighbors, good friends, good souls do not even consider hatred, violence and war. This is not even a feeling in their heart as they are so close to that higher power that they believe in and so happy to be of assistance to others, in gratitude for their life. These people are in alignment with their beliefs and do not need to preach to others as their actions are exposed on a daily basis that they are love and God is love. If your path is so wonderful, people around you will feel this and wish to live up to your example. You will not need to say anything as it is made clear already. If you allow your children to question their faith, to learn more about world religions as they grow into adulthood, most likely they will return to you in gratitude for your love. They will return because they will respect you for giving them the opportunity to grow.

It is our expectations that kill our souls. Our need to force others to do as we do or we will be damned. Our inability to really get in touch with this world that we have been brought into. To smell the flowers that were created for us to enjoy. To touch a tree and feel the years of life that it has been here. To look up at the sky and see the heavens and wonder about what is beyond. To hug a friend or lover or our child and receive acknowledgement of existence beyond ourselves.

Everyday that you walk out into the world you are with your God. Those around you are with their God.  No one can take this away from you but you. Whatever you believe in believe it lovingly and know that it is yours because it exists within you. The world is God and IT has many names, just as we all have many names, cultures, races, ethnicities, ages, and faces. There are many interpretations around the world, around your street, in your house and it is the right one for them. You and your God are one. God is love. We all say this. No one says God is Hate. Think of this the next time you are shoving your words or signs or guns that say God is Love. God is Love and God does not Shove. People do.


Jerk Radar

Stephen T. McCrea has written a book called “Jerk Radar: How to Stop a Bad Relationship Before It Starts.”

Have you ever gone out with someone who seemed perfect at first, but ended up being a nightmare? Do you find yourself falling in love but ending up feeling disrespected and used? Would you like to make sure that something like that never happens to you (or someone you care about) again? If so, this book is written for you.

There are lots of books about how to tell if you’re in an abusive relationship. This book will keep you from getting into one in the first place.

Jerk Radar will help you see how a Jerk takes advantage of common cultural expectations and romantic myths to blind you to his true intentions. It will give you concrete ways to test out his intentions in the course of a normal conversation. And the Jerk Radar Quiz provides an effective tool to screen every partner for Jerky tendencies well before obviously selfish behavior emerges. Full of true stories from abuse survivors, Jerk Radar pulls no punches in exposing what Jerks do and why we fall for it. This is a useful, down-to-earth, practical guide to avoiding a bad relationship instead of recovering from one. Read it today – it just may change your life!

I know Steve from many years ago when I ran a website called Artemis which was for survivors of domestic violence. Steve was a brave man to step into a female dominated message board and he spoke to women and sometimes men about dealing with their abusive relationships. He is a really good guy who is very empathic and sensitive to the needs of others.  His voice was very popular to these women who needed to hear a man who was not abusive to compare with what they had at home. While I have never met Steve in person, we have advised each other over the years, talked shop and I can attest to the fact that he is a very knowledgeable guy.

Steve is also a happily married man of 25 years who shares raising three boys and a granddaughter. He has supervised volunteers with the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program for many years. He also has co-chaired the Domestic Violence Intervention Council for Washington County, OR and has participated in the Multnomah County Family Violence Coordinating Council since 2001.


Raising our Sons Consciously

A child should be taught to respect themselves; mind, body and soul during the 18 years that parents are responsible for raising them.

As with girls, a boy should know that no one has the right to touch his body without permission. 

**More often than not this happens to girls than boys.  However, I am aware of stories that I heard from my clients in social services and this generally happened from people outside the home (i.e., teacher, older boy in the neighborhood, but also siblings in the home).  I have found that if it happens in the home, the parent is less apt to believe than if it happens outside the home.  This is because there is a stigma that relates to boy/boy sexual abuse.  It is easier to imagine someone else doing this but when you have to deal with homosexuality in your own home it is not so easy.  I also find that boys are less likely to want to discuss this topic than girls are.  Thus parents need to be pro-active in making sure they are providing the type of relationship to their children that they feel safe enough to trust them and tell them if something happens. If it happens outside the home you would contact the police. If it happens inside the home you would contact children’s protective services.

A young boy should grow up to know he is capable of accomplishing his dreams.  As with girls, if they show any signs of weakness, focus on their strengths.  If they have a handicap, don’t make them believe their life is pointless due to this setback.  Disabled men have gone on to enter sports competitions, climb mountains, and many other adventurous endeavors.

** If a boy feels confident in himself he will not be a bully or have enough anger to be violent toward others.

A father is very important to a young boy.  When he doesn’t have one it can be more difficult than for a girl because he does not have someone to identify with as a role model.  If his own father is unavailable or unhealthy (this includes abusive), it is important to find a mentor for him in his neighborhood.  This could be a minister, teacher, uncle, boy scout leader, and could even be a boyfriend but the latter is more suspect. 

**Unless the boyfriend is good with kids, the child will more than likely develop a dislike for him and will rebel against him for taking his mom away. Good rule of thumb, if your child does not like your partner, find a mentor in the community.  I’d also give serious thought to the partner you have chosen.

A young boy should grow up in a violent free home and taught that it is unacceptable to strike another person.  A good sport to put a young boy in is self-defense so that they will feel more confident in themselves and learn when it is appropriate to protect oneself and when an assault is merely abuse. 

**Studies show that communities that have no violence between two men, also have no violence between men and women. (David Levinson)

Boys need to be raised in loving, nurturing homes where they learn to respect both parents as well as themselves.  If there is not a woman in the household, they need to learn to have respect for women. It would be good for them to have female mentors in this case.

** When I worked in social services I found that boys were often easier to deal with than girls.  If they know they have a safe home with someone who loves them and whom they trust, they do not get into as much mischief.  Boys appreciate consistent lifestyles differently than girls.

**For single women, loving does not mean calling your child “boyfriend” or “my little man.” You should also not call a night out for dinner “date night.”  This confuses a child who is not familiar with these terms but it also shows that someone is using their child to replace what they are afraid to have.  It is not the child’s responsibility to be your partner.  They are your child.

Boys should be taught about safe sex and birth control at the same time you would discuss this with a girl – puberty.  When they begin to have wet dreams or refuse to allow anyone near the bathroom/bedroom, you know things are changing for them.  Boys need to understand that even though they are not capable of baring a child, they are responsible for bringing one into the world.  It is important that they understand your family values in regards to children and your expectations. 

**If a boy understands how important it is to have respect for women, they will not become the stud of the vicinity and will take their future more seriously.  If they know you will not tolerate unplanned pregnancies and that they will be expected to marry the woman and take care of the child, you will be raising them to be responsible.

Boys also need to understand what a relationship with a woman means.  They need to know the difference between love and lust.  They need to have expectations for their future that deals with college or working.  Coaching a boy to think of his future as an adult, whereby he will be planning for a long-term relationship after he is responsible to handle one, will keep him focused.  Boys need direction differently than girls do. 

**In our society girls need to know there is more to life than marriage.  Boys need to know that there is a plan for them in place to help them get started as an adult.

**Somehow we have groomed boys to be more sexually aggressive than girls.  Part of this is that they have been taught that they are in charge and that this world is theirs. Since girls are now dressing in sexually suggestive manners, I have had boys tell me that this is very confusing to them. As young girls are too inexperienced to understand their dressing style as being teasing and sexual, it is important for parents to take the lead role in this.  It is also important for the parents to take the lead role in how they dress their boys and what they teach them about right and wrong. With some boys dressing with their pants hanging down their buttocks, they are also sending sexually provocative messages.  And since the boys style originated in prison to denote the prisoner was open to anal sex…

A boy should be raised to dress like a gentleman, just as a girl should be raised to dress like a lady.  In our modern age this means jeans with belts.  It means a clean shirt that is preferably tucked in.  It means shaving when appropriate. If they wish to have a facial style, than it should be clean cut and combed.  Boys who are raised to appreciate their appearance will continue to do so the rest of their life.  If they have a male mentor or father who does the same, they will want to mirror them.

**Sagging and unclean looks are generally found in the inner city with boys who have no access to healthy male role models.  These boys find their own hero’s in drug dealers, pimps, con-artists who are driving around in fancy cars that are paid for by dirty money. Naturally a young boy raised in this manner will cling to the men who appear to be “cool” and have all the power.  This being said, the less confidence a young boy has in himself, the less he will care about his well-being or the world around him – no matter where he lives.

Raising a boy in a violent household means that most likely he will become violent toward another.  It means that he will have no respect for women if the victim is one.  He will have no self-esteem if the victim is his same sex.  It makes NO sense whatsoever to keep a family together when there is violence in the home.

Raising a boy who is abused physically and they will grow up to beat their own children. They will also become a bully on the playground and take advantage of other kids.  If you tell a boy he is stupid, lazy, or other harsh words, he will never leave your home. Love your child unconditionally.

If we teach wisely and raise our children in a healthy household they will become wise people and understand their limits as a child.