Mental health experts weigh in on Texas shooting; parents grapple with sending children to school

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 7:22 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - While the nation mourns the young and beloved souls taken so suddenly in the Robb Elementary School shooting, there are still questions about the factors that would drive someone to commit such an evil act.

The Uvalde, Texas gunman was 18, and the suspect in the recent Buffalo, New York mass shooting was also 18. Both are so young, yet so disturbed and troubled.

In the days following tragedies like the ones in Uvalde and Buffalo, people begin to learn disturbing details about the perpetrator.

According to a CDC Kaiser Permanente study, adverse childhood experiences (ACES) such as abuse, neglect, and trauma may put children at risk for violence and other mental health problems.

“Brains are forming when children are very young, and when they have these experiences that can literally change the physiological aspect of a child’s brain,” Henrico CASA Director Jeannine Panzera said. “The stress is toxic, leads to bad hormones going into the body, and so it really does change the entire makeup of a child’s body.”

Henrico CASA works with troubled youth, many of whom show signs of trauma such as self-harm, isolating themselves, and sudden changes in behavior.

“The second really unfortunate thing is that the individual has probably shown some signs and some concerns prior to the incident that occurred that may have just been missed,” Panzera said.

Licensed Professional Counselor Mark Loewen, Director of Launchpad Counseling, says young people who commit these crimes are often at a crisis point. Their cry for help may present itself as bad behavior.

“For example, depression in children comes out as children acting up. It’s not the child that just lays in bed and cries,” Loewen said. “It’s often the child that is defiant, that feels that they don’t have enough control.”

It was extremely difficult for parents to send their children to school Wednesday.

“I really struggled with whether or not to even talk with them about it this morning,” mom of three Laura Kassner said. “It just feels so heavy. It feels like a time that should be so celebratory, and we feel so very heavy. It is so very personal, given the age of the kids and that they look just like ours.”

Some moms shared with NBC12 off-camera that they opted to keep their children home.

Kassner decided normalcy was best for her kids.

“I weighed it against all the excitement of the end of the year picnics and award ceremonies, and the countdowns, and all these things that are supposed to be celebratory, and I don’t want to have them live in fear,” Kassner said.

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