Teens are vulnerable to mental illness. In fact, many suffer from psychological disorder without even knowing it. Depression and anxiety are so common in America that having symptoms of those disorders are commonplace. Those who feel sad, numb, and deadened can easily walk through their day without anyone asking, “Are you okay?”
Perhaps that’s why it’s easy for a teen to go unnoticed despite the malicious planning that they have going on inside. For instance, 20-year old Adam Lanza was obsessed with school shootings and he struggled with mental illness. He had a history of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and often refused to take his medication for this illness. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by repeating thoughts and images that might cause an individual to perform the same rituals over and over again, such as washing hands, locking and unlocking doors, or counting money.
Sadly, there are often red flags regarding psychological disorders that become apparent after a tragic event occurs. No one thinks that someone they know would walk into a school and begin shooting students and administration.
However, this was precisely the case with John LaDue, age 17. He had laid out extensive plans, gathered ammunition, and had intent to make an attack on his family as well as at his school in a few weeks. The student lives in a small town south of Minneapolis and was arrested prior to committing any horrible crimes.
His plan was disclosed when someone called the police in late April after they saw someone suspicious carrying a backpack into a storage unit and close the door behind them. When police arrived, they found the student surrounded by bomb making materials, firearms, and papers documenting his plans.
According to the students’ journals, he apparently had intended to set off many bombs during school lunchtime, kill school administration, set fires to the school and shoot students before killing himself. Like, Lanza, who had an obsession with school shootings, LaDue also made references to the Columbine shooting in 1999, where two students killed 13 people and then themselves. LaDue idolized one of the Columbine gunmen and even critiqued in his journals what he thought the gunman did right and what he thought he did wrong.
Another young adult was found having a history of violent outbursts only after he carried a rifle and 498 rounds of ammunition into a DeKalb County Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia. Fortunately, his violent intent to kill was also thwarted. Michael Brandon Hill had a history of mental illness, of which only became largely apparent to his community after he was arrested. Hill was an adopted teen and was well behaved when on his medication. However, he frequently refused to take his medication, which often led to violence and trouble with the law.
Although, there are many teens that experience mental illness, there are often psychological red flags that are noticeable. For example, signs to watch for are when a teen refuses to take medication, when he or she is in denial about their illness, when there is frequent societal withdrawal. If these become evident in an adolescent’s behavior, there’s no harm in speaking to a mental health professional. Certainly, in order to keep schools safe, reporting suspicious activity, as was the case with Lanza, can save an entire community.
Bailey, D. (May 2, 2014). Minnesota teenager charged with planning school massacre: police. Chicago Tribune: News. Retrieved on May 9, 2014 from: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-05-02/news/sns-rt-us-usa-crime-minnesota-20140429_1_school-massacre-columbine-high-school-school-resource-officer
Fox, L. (November 25, 2013). Report: Sandy Hook Shooter Adam Lanza was Obsessed with Mass Shootings. Retrieved on May 9, 2014 from: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/11/25/report-sandy-hook-shooter-adam-lanza-was-obsessed-with-mass-shootings
By Robert Hunt
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