Tuesday, August 23, 2022 | Kaiser Health News

Mental Illness A Poor Red Flag For Predicting Mass Shootings: Experts

A report in the New York Times explains how mental health experts are making efforts to show the divide between a clinical mental health diagnosis and the risk of someone becoming a mass shooter. The Parkland school shooting is in the news again. Also, other mental health matters.

The New York Times:
Red Flag For Shootings? Life Crisis, Not Mental Illness, Experts Say

America’s mass killers fit no single profile and certainly no pattern of insanity — many, if not most, had never been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disorder. Background checks can prevent someone with a diagnosis of mental illness from acquiring a gun, but psychologists say there is a wide divide between a clinical diagnosis and the type of emotional disturbance that precedes many mass killings. (Dewan, 8/22)

The Parkland shooter was born to an addicted mother, his defense says —

The New York Times:
Defense Argues Gunman In Parkland School Shooting Was Born ‘Damaged’

The troubled life of Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people at his former Florida high school four years ago, began long before he was born, his lead defense lawyer told jurors on Monday, arguing that his biological mother’s heavy consumption of alcohol and drugs while pregnant irreparably harmed his developing brain. At birth, he was deprived of oxygen by an umbilical cord wrapped three times around his neck, and doctors spent the first minute after his delivery resuscitating him. (Mazzei, 8/22)

Miami Herald:
Mom Did Crack, Drank While Pregnant, Parkland Shooter’s Jailed Sister Testifies

Danielle Woodard hadn’t seen her baby biological brother in person since Sept. 24, 1998, when he was born at the hospital. They reunited, in a way, almost 24 years later. Woodard, who herself is in jail in Miami awaiting trial in a carjacking case, took the witness stand on Monday, testifying on behalf of younger brother Nikolas Cruz, who is facing the death penalty as he’s being sentenced for the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. (Ovalle, 8/22)

Nikolas Cruz’s Defense Says His Brain Was ‘Poisoned’ By Birth Mother’s Addictions In Death Penalty Trial

Cruz had developmental delays early in his childhood, including his difficulty communicating with others. He would bite others, lash out emotionally and was impaired intellectually, public defender Melisa McNeill said. Cruz first received special education services at age 6, struggling in school socially and academically throughout his young life, she said. (Levenson, Royal and Weisfeldt, 8/23)

In other news about mental health —

The Boston Globe:
Boston’s New Mental Health Czar Lays Out His Goals

In June, Dr. Kevin Simon became Boston’s chief behavioral health officer — a role new to the city and possibly unique to Boston. Mayor Michelle Wu and Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, appointed Simon, a child psychiatrist with Boston Children’s Hospital, to develop a city-wide strategy to address behavioral health issues, especially among youth. (Freyer, 8/22)

Detroit Free Press:
Student Mental Health: Schools Take New Approaches To Growing Challenge

In Oakland Schools, where the mental health repercussions of November’s fatal school shooting at Oxford High School remain reverberant, Benson said mental health resources for students are an “ever-changing participatory resource collection.” Oakland Schools teams are making sure students find these resources to be accessible, by making them available via QR codes and phone apps, for example. (Brookland, 8/22)

The New York Times:
A Teen’s Journey Into The Internet’s Darkness And Back Again

What science increasingly shows is that virtual interactions can have a powerful impact, positive or negative, depending on a person’s underlying emotional state. “The internet is a volume knob, an amplifier and accelerant,” Byron Reeves, a professor of communication at Stanford University, said. But there is a lack of reliable research into how technology affects the brain, and a shortage of funding to help ailing teens cope. From 2005 to 2015, funding from the National Institute of Mental Health to study innovative ways to understand and help adolescents with mental health issues fell 42 percent. (Richtel, 8/22)

From Book Stacks To Psychosis And Food Stamps, Librarians Confront A New Workplace

For nearly two decades, Lisa Dunseth loved her job at San Francisco’s main public library, particularly her final seven years in the rare books department. But like many librarians, she saw plenty of chaos. Patrons racked by untreated mental illness or high on drugs sometimes spit on library staffers or overdosed in the bathrooms. She remembers a co-worker being punched in the face on his way back from a lunch break. One afternoon in 2017, a man jumped to his death from the library’s fifth-floor balcony. Dunseth retired the following year at age 61, making an early exit from a nearly 40-year career. (Scheier, 8/23)

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