MENTAL HEALTH: 3 Proven Ways to Protect Children!

Americans have experienced 74 mass shootings since Sandy Hook on December 14, 2012! While mental health and gun control are national talking points there is little or no discussion about PREVENTION.

As a crime and violence prevention specialist for 38 years I have worked with violent and non-violent men and youth… here are my thoughts.

Few children are born with mental problems! To stop violence, we have to look at what adults are doing to cause it. Violent behavior starts at home!

Mental illness is a spiritual crisis! Anger within families, affect a child’s emotional stability. They don’t know how to grow strong and resilient. Many of today’s youth are spiritually ignorant. They don’t understand the power of the human spirit to overcome any adversity!

Family abuse is controlling and destructive. When children do not receive the emotional support needed to succeed, they struggle alone with anxiety and fear. Hitting, bullying or verbal abuse teaches children how to control others or become a victim.

“Helicopter” parents that “hover” over their children, are also controlling and destructive. Overly protective parents have created an epidemic of “pin cushion” victims who are overly sensitive, immature, entitled and impressionable! Indulged youth can develop an inflated ego and feel disrespected if they don’t get what they want. They can become angry, demanding or depressed.

Either way, controlling adults are NOT teaching children to be responsible or value themselves. When a child’s emotional development is neglected, they don’t trust their instincts or intuition. They don’t develop a self-protective conscience and may lack empathy for others. These children can become bullies or controlled followers.

Bully behavior is easily identified, but sensitive followers suffer in silence. They can become isolated and dwell on their pain. They don’t know how to develop healthy relationships. Anger stops rational thinking and the ability to mature responsibly. Youth may find relief by hurting themselves with drugs, cutting and sex, which deepen depression. Constant indoctrination with violent, sexual movies, TV and the Internet can reinforce anger and a desire to feel powerful. Anger can become a mindset that pulls youth down into an addiction of drug abuse or revenge. A small percent of individuals will commit suicide or blame others and kill for revenge.

The good news is: the cycle can be broken if we understand what’s happening, what to do and how youth can learn to handle emotional pain and heal.

It is up to parents, extended family, neighbors and friends to create a sense of community around children so they can learn from adults how to make good choices. When adults listen and build trust, children will discuss their pain, anger, frustrations and feelings of revenge. With support, youth will not be consumed by negative feelings, which can cause mental disorders.

To protect children’s mental health, they need:

  1. Role models that demonstrate patience and how to get alone with others. Centered adults teach aggressive children to modify their behavior so they don’t bully. They encourage sensitive children to participate in-group activities to strengthen their character and learn how to prevent victimization.
  2. A calm, centered family interacts peacefully with family members, neighbors and friends, no matter how difficult the circumstances. They have nonviolent consequences for a child’s bad behavior.
  3. Community activities help children find their spiritual center with people who listen and activities that teach cooperation and teamwork. Churches and synagogues provide an extended “family” with a foundation of healthy values that teach children to take responsibility for their actions.

A child’s mind is like a garden. Plant defective seeds of abuse or neglect and the garden become littered with weeds and thorns. Plant seeds of support and attention and the garden will flourish and become bountiful. It takes involved, caring “gardeners” to help a child develop a healthy mind, body and spirit.

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