Save Our Youth
February 21, 2018
On the 14th of February, 2018, our nation fell victim to yet another tragic mass shooting. Nikolas Cruz, a 19 year old previously expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, stormed into his former school and killed a total of 17 staff and students using an AR-15 rifle. What he has done cannot reasonably be called anything other than a horrific act of murder, but it’s important to understand that despite his actions as an individual, this could have been prevented if only he’d been helped.
Everyone knew that Nikolas was troubled. He was known for his unruly behaviour in school, and often spoke of killing animals in his spare time. His social media was peppered with disturbing images and statements, none of which were taken seriously. He has struggled with mental health issues for the majority of his life, and had been in and out of ineffective treatment for many months prior to the shooting. He was not receiving the help that he needed – help that could have prevented him from resorting to such violence.
It was clear that Nikolas was a disturbed youth and needed to be treated, but little action was ever taken to provide it. Sadly this situation is not unique to Nikolas – an estimated 12% of all youth in the US are afflicted with some sort of mental illness, and little to nothing is done to give them the assistance they so desperately need. The issues they try to express are brushed off by parents, educators, and even medical professionals as “standard teenage problems”, but aren’t “standard teenage problems” problems nonetheless? If a kid is so troubled that they resort to making an attempt on their own or someone else’s life, is it not clear that they need help? Preventing deadly action is not a complicated thing – it’s simply a matter of recognizing and treating mental illness before it escalates.
Peers, do not brush off the behavior of those around you, and tell someone you trust if someone’s exhibiting worrying behavior. Educators, recognize the warning signs and take appropriate action without hesitation. And most importantly, parents – please fight to get your child the help they need. Do not settle for a lazy evaluation and the occasional therapy session, but ensure that they’re truly being treated for whatever issue they may face. Let’s do something right as a society, and cure ourselves of the plague that is unchecked mental illness.