Violence among teens has increased over the years and mental health professionals are more concerned than ever. The Zarrow Mental Health Symposium in Tulsa focused on that issue. The group listened to presentations from professionals who have dealt with tragedies such as the Columbine high school shooting in Littleton, Colorado.
The mass shooting at Columbine High School presented Colorado mental health workers with the greatest challenge in their professional lives. Two students shot and killed 12 of their classmates and one teacher, then turned the guns on themselves. The mental health community there responded immediately and intensely. "We had people working 24-hours a day to respond immediately to do debriefing and counseling, and be wherever there were people in pain," said Colorado mental health association director Jeanne Rohner.
Rohner and her therapist husband, Donald, told mental health professionals here about what they learned from the shooting. One of the main things they learned was the lack of mental health professionals in public schools. Rohner says if there had been more, someone might have detected the warning signs of the shooters at Columbine. "They had broken into a car," she recalled. "They were writing violent messages on the web site. They listened to many hours of violent movies and played violent video games. They felt like people were out to get them," she said.
Rohner says communication skills also need to improve between local authorities, schools and parents. She says people need to start working together now to stop the future violence. "We've got to band together as communities so that we can respond in a preventive way," said Rohner, "because we're going to respond one way or another. Before or after."