We need to pay closer attention

December 20, 2012 

We hoped the killing of two people in a Portland shopping mall on Dec. 11 would be the last senseless random shooting in 2012.

Little did we know that just three days later, a 20-year-old would commit one of the most evil and horrific acts of brutality in our country's history.

The Dec. 14 massacre of 20 precious children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., shocked the entire country.

It will take a long time, if ever, to forget the look of intense horror and fear seen on the faces of children and adults at the scene in the New England town of Newtown.

We still remember other horrible acts of violence.

The 17 and 18-year-old males that killed 13 people and wounded 24 others at Columbine High School in 1999. The 23-year-old man who killed 32 and wounded 25 at Virginia Tech in 2007. The 23-year-old man who killed six people and wounded 14 others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona on Jan. 8, 2011, and the 25-year-old male who killed 12 and wounded 58 on July 20 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

The scary part of all these shootings is that, not surprisingly, no one has the answer to put a stop to them. Many experts says these mass killers do not fit a set "profile" other than their acts are usually not spontaneous, but methodically planned.

Some mental health professionals, however, feel there are warning signs, but most friends and relatives are either clueless to the signs, choose to ignore them, or feel helpless in dealing with them.

The least we can do is be more aware of a friend or family member's mental state and notify authorities if someone you know has isolated themselves from friends and family, is acting secretive, showing signs of long-term depression or above normal irritability, stress, anxiety, anger, hostility or is sharing suicidal thoughts. Many people suffer from other psychotic disorders including delusions and hallucinations. Psychologists say, as hard as it is to believe, some killings are committed by people who may believe they are doing the right thing.

We need to pay closer attention to these conditions and not be afraid to intervene as needed. Of course, not everyone displaying such traits will go on to commit violent acts, but it is better to be over cautious than possibly allow a person to hurt others or themselves. It is not the answer to everything, but its better than doing nothing.

It is also important to remember that the Dec. 14 massacre comes at a time when mental health programs have been cut in the U.S. by $2 billion in recent years.

And something as easy as inspection of a person's living space often turns up danger signs.

Tricia Lammers' actions in Missouri this past November prevented a mass killing when she notified police that she found receipts for two assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in her son's room -- and called police. Her son was plotting another late night slaughter at a theater.

We need to take to heart the words of Robert Parker, father of one of the victims, 6-year-old Emile Parker, who said we should all use the horrific event in Newtown to inspire us to be more compassionate and more humble people.

Before you go to bed tonight -- say a prayer for Newtown and all the people who will live with this tragedy for the rest of their lives.

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