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Dec-22-2012 17:00printcomments

Newtown Fallout Meets Mental Health: Chaos, Complexities Remain

Violence stems from no single cause, and it varies with the person so we cannot assume a one-size-fits-all position.

Newtown Vigil
Courtesy: Guardian UK

(SALEM) - The nuances of the Newtown tragedy are complex. The answers are elusive. Those courting a simple panacea are doing a disservice to the Nation.

Mental Health as a system may be in need of repair but so are our frightened attitudes. Without a more enlightened attitude, we are unlikely to improve our altitude. Nor will the self-righteous ones in our midst be assets in this social watershed. And shedding tears can only go so far.

Let's lay out the strands of complexity that VP Joe Biden and his Violent Causes Commission will be facing in the months ahead:

1. As far as we have determined, Violence stems from no single cause, and it varies with the person so we cannot assume a one-size-fits-all position.

2. Social class and education are not the decisive factors. Beware of scapegoaters out there!

3. Teachers can pick up clues at times but are not trained a therapists.

4. The professional mental health community has not found an irrefutable list of danger signs that will invariably guarantee violence, although mood disorders can be a contributing cause.

5. There is no common agreement on whether cognitive therapy or biofeedback or following Freud or Jung or Karen Horney will render the best treatment. The jury is still deadlocked.

6. So far as I know there have been no longitudinal studies of "mass shooters" or even those who commit domestic violence. Do they have track records as school bullies or date rape assailants? The world has no clear evidence either way.

7. We've gone through Columbine and Virginia Tech and Oak Creek and now Newtown but to what avail? What has the public gleaned? Do the killers' profiles resemble each other?

8. While gun control may superficially seem like a magical "cure", that notion may be way off. Do states with tighter laws have fewer murders? ND has the most gun owners population-wise yet it also boasts the lowest rate of killings in all fifty states, ironically.

9. Certain European countries have fewer murders and fewer available guns, yet our nation is multicultural and more tolerant of atypical types. What role does diversity play in the picture?

10. What induces alienation, both in schools and the workplace? If we discover the reasons that some are ostracize and thus turn violent, can we establish a workable means of prevention?

Above are 10 tenets to reflect upon. We are in a mental meltdown. The pot continues to boil.

NOTE: The author has been a licensed social work therapist in six jurisdictions: NY, MD, DC, VA, NM and most recently, Oregon, having treated hundreds of clients since 1975. He draws forth his premises from these experiences, and was attacked but rescued in several close-calls.


Salem-News.com Community Writer Barry Lee Coyne brings to our readers stories from his combined career of journalism and gerontology, and explains that these paths shaped his values. Lee Coyne once worked for The Civil Service Leader in NY State and covered the Legislature. He has also done features on mediation and arbitration, and believes in healthy skepticism. This writer-therapist often views the world as the masks of comedy and tragedy placed upon the scales of justice. For him, optimism inevitably wins. "Lyrical Lee" has traveled to 30 nations aboard and was once a press intern at the UN. His first published article was in The NY Daily News in '59, dealing with the need for integrity in public office.

He also launched the nation's first tele-conference on health education for shut-ins, created the Eldermentors project in VA to pair retirees with immigrant students needing role models, and was the main catalyst behind CCTV's "Public Public" panel show here in Salem. Lee received his BA in International Relations and an MSW in community organization. He currently serves as a member of Salem's Library Advisory Board. To send Lee an email, please write to this address: luckycoyne@yahoo.com

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