Gun violence in this country has been a “hot button” political topic for a very long time. Gun violence has been used to solve gang wars and battles over drug territory in our inner cities and urban communities for years. But we as a society have been desensitized by our mass media with their lack of coverage of these crimes and we have made a subconscious decision to disconnect ourselves from the gun violence that does not directly effect us. It is when a mass-murder takes to our movie theaters like in Aurora, to our high schools and universities like in Columbine and Virginia Tech, and even to take the lives of the most innocent, like the Elementary school in Sandy Hook, that we take gun violence personal regardless whether or not we own them.
These types of mass murders and killing sprees have taken center stage in our government’s new campaign for gun control reform. But what has been only slightly addressed in the assault weapons ban that has recently failed in Congress and barely covered in our mass media coverage of those tragic events, is mental health.
As a criminal justice major and seeing first hand how this country neglects the mentally ill while working in Emergency Medical Services in this city, it is clear our country has to be make aware how not addressing the mental hygiene problem could have a direct effect to gun violence regardless of what strides are made in Congress.
The vast majority of the mentally ill with confirmed cases of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or other psychotic issues are non-violent. But history has clearly shown us, especially in the school related shootings, all of the individuals involved had an undiagnosed issue. I would like to go over the signs of mental illness specifically in youths, the effects of bullying on those individuals, the direct link to gun violence and a possible solution to these issues.
In a study commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Violence, it was reported that since 2009, 43 mass shootings have occurred in 25 states, nearly one per month. And in just 4 of the 43 cases was a mental-health red-flag raised prior to the incident.
Wade Michael Page, James Holmes, Seung-Hui Cho and Jared Loughner. These four men have something else in common other than being labeled as mass murders, they all showed signs of mental illness before committing any crimes.
Signs of mental illness include feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, recurring thoughts of death and suicide, psychotic symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations, distancing themselves from other classmates and limited to no interaction with other individuals. Anti-social behavior, such as substance abuse, aggression, often engaging in fights with others, constant rule-breaking and frequent run-ins with the law and bullying are often considered cries for help and are signs something is wrong. The long lasting effects of being bullied can even cause mental illness.
Bullying can lead to poor self-esteem, depression, anxiety and if it is not stopped by the student, facility or parent, could lead to severe mental illness in a teenagers.

Everyone remembers the Columbine shooters for their horrible attack, but Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were both considered “normal” by the majority of people they knew. Both Eric and Dylan were gifted students active in TV productions and helped maintain the school’s computer servers. But due to the constant bullying and torment that lasting all four years of high school chronicled in his Eric’s journal in descriptive detail, they planned and executed their attack on the school and on April 20th, 1999, they injured 21 students and facility and took the lives of 15 people, including their own. Five years after the attack, the FBI’s lead investigator of the Columbine shooting and several psychiatrists concluded that Dylan showed severe signs of depression and Eric had masterminded the whole plan and showed classic symptoms of being a clinical psychopath.
The US Secret Service went back and did a study of 37 premeditated school shootings prior to that date and showed that bullying was a factor in more than two thirds of the attacks.
We as students, facility and parents have to be made aware of these signs and symptoms of mental illness. Make consolers and therapists more accessible to individuals that need them. Add funding to elementary and high schools so we can add psychiatrists to help better detect at-risk youths. And recognize that if help is actually needed, we have a system in place to help these individuals.
Most teenagers are able to break through such problems as bullying and can become functioning adults, but sometimes there are added pressures from home not even friends, other students or facility can notice. That is where our jobs as parents take an even more important role. No one wants to hear that their son or daughter is sick, physically or mentally, but we have to make a decision to get help for the child, before the problem gets worse.
Mark Kelly, husband of former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was gravely wounded by convicted mass murderer Jared Loughner said this to him during his sentencing hearing.
"Your decision to commit cold-blooded mass murder also begs of us to look in the mirror...We are a people who can watch a young man like you spiral into murderous rampage without choosing to intervene before it is too late."