Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Enough school shooters; Time to face depression

Today's school shooter at University of Texas at Austin turned out to be only 19. How sad is that?

The coroner ID'd him as  Colton Tooley, a sophomore in math. He opened fire with an AK-47. Luckily, he hit no one, then shot himself dead.)

The sadder part is that we don't have to keep losing these kids. It will be awhile before we know what was going on with this kid, but most shooters suffer from severe depression

And here's the thing. Depression is treatable. Read the recommendations released last year by the United States Preventive Services Task Force.

It'a a pretty dry, but the bottom line is simple: it's not that hard to diagnose, or to treat.

For a much more moving read, brace yourself and then dive into the staggering piece published in O Magazine last fall by Sue Klebold, mother of Columbine killer Dylan Klebold, take a look.

It's heart-breaking, but insightful. Powerful a stuff. Ultimately, it's a plea for moms, teachers, friends and everyone connected to kids to wake up about depression.

Good call.


  1. Thank you, Dave - so many people don't give depression the attention it needs; more people don't give KIDS with depression any credence. Depressed kids are not only more likely to do what this one did, but are also prone to being bullied, and that also leads to suicide - known as bullycide. Articles such as yours, as Sue's (I have it printed) should raise some awareness. I'm with you on the front lines, raising awareness of cyberbullying among our youth. The more people who know, the more who can help those in need...and prevent incidents such as these.

    Again, thank you for your efforts. They are not in vain. Those of us listening should (as I will) pass along these links to others who need to listen.

  2. Thanks for the great post, Dave. Childhood and adolescent depression is much more prevalent than most people realize, and we need to start educating adults, parents, teachers, and caregivers how to recognize its signs.

    I know: my then 12-year-old son was diagnosed with depression only after it manifested as a severe eating disorder. Thankfully, he had wonderful professionals who were able to help him. But we, his parents, had no idea that he was depressed because we really didn't understand the signs of depression. Now we know, and we know what to look for in the future.

    There is still a stigma that is attached to mental health disorders that needs to be lifted. Education, compassion, and understanding are the best tools to utilize to move forward in this regard. Thank you for shining a light on this for others.

  3. Ah, but from whence did his depression originate? Something did drive him, hopefully his family and classmates will know more.

  4. Thanks for those.

    Rose, I'm so glad you found help for your son. I guess it's good, in a way, that it manifested in that way, so that you could spot it.

    Depression can be hard for parents to see, because kids hide it from them. The task force suggested that family doctors could easily screen for depression, but the parents had to be asked to step outside. Kids won't admit it in front of them.

  5. Dave, that's very true. Our son was extremely adept at hiding his signs of depression. Even knowing what to look for, adolescents (and pre-teens) are very good at covering their tracks. And even after several years of treatment, we still have not pinpointed what "triggered" his depression. Brain chemistry is a tricky thing, especially when children are growing and changing. Interestingly, our son has an identical twin. A few months before our son began his decline, his twin acted in a very similar manner. Yet he was able to move out of that behavior very quickly, where our other son was not. It reinforces the idea that every child/person is very different, and you just don't know who will be affected and who will not.

    Blessings to you.

  6. Was Eric Harris depressed? No. School shooters are tired of 'everything', the world. I wouldn't use the definition 'depressed' because it doesn't apply to all school shooters, but all school shooters are angry at the world. Most school shooters have some sort of message they try to convey through their actions.

    Depression is a normal condition for people to have and experience, most have.

  7. Anon:
    No, Eric was not depressed, Dylan was.

    How did you arrive at those generalizations of school shooters? They are contradicted by the Secret Service study. (Which is linked at my Columbine Guide to the right.)

    Most shooters have been severely depressed, which is far different than routine sadness, and not normal.

  8. Thanks for sharing the information about the link between depression and school shootings. We know from what happened with Dylan that depressed kids do things that are completely out of their character to do otherwise. I think kids are more isolated than ever before and this must lead to greater instances of depression. My son is 16 and he doesn't even talk on the phone anymore. He and his friends communicate by texting and messaging on Facebook. If a child is depressed this lack of connection with others would only stand to exacerbate the problem for them. To counterbalance this I make sure that we eat dinner together every night and have plenty of conversations. Once we've had good family time he can go in his room and get "lost" on his computer. Your book, Columbine should be read by all parents so they can understand that we have to know and understand what our kids are doing and thinking.

  9. Thanks, Kathleen.

    I know what you mean about "lost" in the computer. I've been that guy. (I think I am today. Haha.)

    But seriously. I work alone and do go stircrazy when I don't pro-actively force myself out to interact.

    The nightly dinner sounds like a very good idea. I tend to use the gym that way, more or less, since I live alone.