Over two weeks ago the town of Chardon, Ohio was shaken by a traumatic event that occurred at the local High School. It was approximately 7:30 am on February 27, and like any other morning, students congregated in the Chardon High School cafeteria waiting to go to class. Little did the students know that what seemed like a typical morning would quickly turn deadly. As students interacted with friends, the sound of shots began to echo throughout the room. TJ Lane, a seventeen year old student, changed the course of the entire day and even history by unloading ten rounds of ammunition from his .22 caliber handgun on fellow classmates. While reports indicated the shots were random, it's questionable since he appeared to target a single group of students sitting at the same table. Coincidentally, one of the students was reportedly his ex-girlfriends boyfriend.
As the chilling 911 calls came in that morning the panic, the confusion and the realization of what was occurring set in. Tragically, in the midst of this mass chaos, TJ Lane had taken the life of three innocent teens and left two injured. Daniel Parmertor, Demetrius Hewlin, and Russell King lost their lives that brutal day and Joy Rickersan and Nick Walczac were left injured in the wake of the aftermath. To learn more about the victims and their amazing life stories click the following link:
When a crisis happens, it's not uncommon for people to seek immediate answers and to try to makes heads or tails out of what happened. In response to a school shooting there's a demand for more security and stricter laws to keep it from happening again. While beefing up security and creating laws is a move in the right direction, it isn't going to solve the problem. Things aren't truly going to change until we go to the roots of the true problem...the troubled teen.
What on earth would drive a student to the point that he felt he needed to shoot his fellow peers? Were there signs that indicated a potential catastrophe waited? If so, what were they? A youth who is not prone to trouble or violence doesn't just turn into a killer overnight. Right? Odds are the indicators, red flags and warning signs were there all the time. Unfortunately, the pieces didn't fall into place until it was way too late.
As with any troubled teen, there are usually underlying emotions and feelings as well as social and familial turmoil that creates a recipe for disaster. So, what are some of the potential warning signs? While there is no perfect "profile" for a troubled youth, there are some distinct indicators and common characteristics to look for.
The Warning Signs:
The teen is easily insulted, angered, impatient and hurt by real or perceived threats. He frequently feels that things aren't "Fair".
The teen has a limited ability to deal with disappointment, failure, criticism, and rejection.
The teen has a history of turbulent relationships. This leads devastating break ups. The teen may feel rejected and unloved resulting in anger or depression. These teens usually lack support systems or the coping skills to deal with the loss of friends or relationships
Here are some unhealthy relationship signs to for watch for:
Not many friends
Attaches easily to others
Idolizes romantic partner
Abusive Psychologically and/or Physically
Watch for the signs of teen depression. Many of these troubled teens may exhibit the following symptoms.
Sadness or hopelessness
Irritability or anger
Bouts of crying
Isolation from friends and family
Loss of interest in activities
Changes in dietary and sleeping habits
Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
Lack of motivation
Thoughts of death or suicide
The teen has trouble assuming responsibility for his behavior and actions. The teen blames others for the negative things that happen in his life. He may seek justice and retribution against those that have wronged him.
Teen feels superior to others and that she is entitled to special things. She may belittle and berate others to support her grandiose feelings of superiority.
The teen may be singled out and harassed by peers. He internalizes and suppresses anger and suffers from low self-esteem. These teens may be seen as the "quite one" or "loner".
In one of the 911 calls from Chardon a caller was asked if the student firing the gun had an issue with the victims, the caller responded "I have no idea. He's very quiet and doesn't really talk to anyone."
Teen exhibits great distrust for any one. At some point in the youth's life trust has been broken or was never established.
The teen feels as though his way is the only way. He has a disregard for rules at home and school. He may challenge authority and have very little respect for anyone who appears to be in charge.
The teen may come from a home that isn't loving or supportive. Teens may lack positive role models and feel neglected, abandoned and unloved.
- Unusual interest in violence
Teen begins to express an unusual interest in violence. He may begin to idolize those who commit acts of violence. This can include the over fascination with video games, graphic movies. He may draw graphic pictures, be compulsively fascinated in weapons,
Teen begins to have academic difficulty and grades begin to fall. The teen is frequently tardy, skips school, and gets into trouble. Oftentimes, these teens lack a vision of the future.
If you know a teen is troubled, it doesn't mean that he's/she's going to harm himself or others; it just means that he/she needs help. I watched a show on genetics the other night and one of the researchers stated that we have over three and a half million chromosomes that are unique just to us. Each of these genes makes up our individuality. It's hard to pinpoint all of the psychological warning signs and red flags and that makes one individual react differently from another who experiences the same thing. I guess it all comes down to genetics, support systems, resilience and coping skills.
So, while not every troubled teen is going to turn to a life of violence or self-destruction, it is important to acknowledge that there are indicators that point to a need for help. These teens live a life of inner turmoil and psychological pain. Did TJ Lane, present some warning signs and red flags of a troubled teen? I would venture to say, yes...
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on how to help a trouble teen.
The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective