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Can we do something as a community about school shootings?

By Dr. Javier Falcón/ Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist

May 27, 2022

What happened in Texas last Tuesday at an elementary school fills our minds with shock, fear, anger, sadness, disbelief, confusion and insecurity. The perpetrator of this tragedy was an 18-year-old teenager, nominated by many on social networks as a destructive monster. This implies establishing that his actions were inhuman, therefore incomprehensible from all rational knowledge and logic. However, thinking in this way distances us from what happened and prevents us from understanding what factors intervened to determine such a terrible outcome.

School rampage shootings occur because of a complex combination of environmental, family, and individual factors that vary from perpetrator to another and that lead him to a state of emotional mental crisis, where he experiences a depressive existential rage, directed towards himself and towards the world around him, mainly his family and/or school, conditioning a reduced vision of the themselves, saturated with negative components, which leads him to think that the only solution to so much suffering is the destruction of himself and the world around him (ideas of suicide and revenge). And that is where the idea of an unbridled school shooting appears as a means to achieve these ends.

Such a reduced view of the world is not necessarily permanent. Most of the shooters who survived the attacks have consistently and convincingly expressed feelings of guilt, remorse, agony, and self-loathing for what they did. The crimes they committed were not inevitable results of their personalities, but actions taken in a state of crisis. If they had been detected and received containment and help during the crises, let alone before, there is no reason to assume that they would necessarily become murderers.


The feeling of many young people is that we adults have been failing them in all fields, hence their distrust, hopelessness, boredom, anger, impotence, sadness, frustration and a long etcetera. We must ask ourselves if we are willing to become aware of the situation and start doing something to change the way things usually work, in order to offer them a better world.

Then we began to realize that we can do not only something but many things to face the current world crisis that is generating an increase in the mental, emotional and relational deterioration of children, adolescents and young people, causing them to present a greater number of of psychopathologies and more serious: anorexia and bulimia, drug addiction, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, alcoholism, self-mutilation, attention deficit, suicide, and the issue at hand: rampant school shootings, among others.

Parents and teachers can try to follow the following recommendations with their children and/or students:

  • Creating an emotional connection with the family and with school

  • Generate spaces for dialogue and listening

  • Guide them in their development from our role as parents or teachers.

  • Strengthen their ability to regulate their emotions

  • Develop the ability to deal with difficult or adverse situations.

  • Tolerance to frustration

  • Encourage empathy and respect

  • Be alert to sudden changes in behavior or habits.

  • Educate in generosity and humanization

  • Promote healthy self-esteem

  • Help them identify their support network

  • To support them in discovering the meaning of life.

  • Transmit faith and confidence in their ability to achieve their goals.

  • Supporting their desire for individuation and autonomy as they grow up

  • Promote favorable social environments and networks

  • Seek psychological support if necessary

Bullying Prevention


School bullying deserves a special mention, because, as various investigations point out, 70% of unrestrained school shooters suffered from it and in a serious way prior to their attacks, some for several years. Preventing bullying is a central measure to avoid potential rampage shooters.

Let us point out some points that must be taken into account when developing School Bullying Prevention programs:

  • Measure its prevalence

  • Make sure school staff, students, and parents are clear about what constitutes bullying behavior

  • Educate parents, teachers and students about the importance of bullying

  • Train staff to take an active role in its detection and prevention

  • Establish clear rules at school about bullying

  • Provide instruction on bullying in class, which informs students how to respond in case of being victims or when they observe that it is carried out on a colleague

  • Identify the students involved and assess with them what type of bullying they are experiencing 

  • Individual interventions and disciplinary measures must be carried out with those involved

  • It will also be helpful to provide individual or group therapy to victims of chronic bullying

  • In all cases, monitoring and follow-up is necessary to ensure that bullying does not continue and that students identified as bullies do not retaliate against victims.

In conclusion, we must emphasize that someone who thinks about going on a school shooting spree is someone who has been suffering emotionally for a long time, generally for years, without the adults around him/her being aware of it. This leads them to think that violence is the only way to end their suffering, violence towards themselves and towards others. And it is here where the presence of a sensitive adult who detects, listens, empathizes and seeks to help them in their suffering, can make all the difference for them to consider that there are other means other than violence to solve their problems.

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