Dr. Caroline Fisher is a psychiatrist at Samaritan Health Services, working with patients who are between the ages of 3-21.
“Most mass shooters see themselves as saving society from these other bad people – the person who rejected them, the person who cut them from the team, the person who didn’t give them good grades,” she said.
Fisher says it is difficult to paint a portrait of a school shooter, but that almost all of them were bullied.
“It’s hard to be a kid today because electronic media allow us not to be bullied by one person or not be humiliated in front of a few people, but it can be posted on Facebook and you can be humiliated in front of millions. Kids experience post-traumatic stress afterwards, depression afterwards, changes to their sense of self and self-esteem afterwards; ability to trust afterwards. Bullying is really hard.”
Fisher says the other common theme among shooters is preparing an assault ahead of time and not always in secret.
“It’s important because that’s where we could reasonably intervene,” she said. “When somebody is able to speak up, we’re able to intervene for everybody’s benefit.”
She says if anyone hears someone else threatening to harm someone else or him or herself, that an adult in charge should be notified immediately: such as a parent, teacher, principal, counselor, or police officer.
But is there a solution to bullying? Fisher says there is a way for it to stop.
“To be kinder to one another,” she said. “We always need to be kinder to one another.”
She says it is important to accept other people’s differences and to reach out to make others feel welcome in the community if they feel alienated.
“It’s pretty clear that from infancy, if our caregivers are kind to us – whether that’s our parents or our daycare providers or our teachers – we learn to be kind to each other,” she said.
“The probability that you’re going to see the warning signs and say: ‘Aha! I think my kid is a school shooter’ is pretty remote. Much more likely, you’re going to see the warning signs that your child is suffering because about ten percent of our adolescents are suffering.”
She recommends parents talk to their kids to see if they are happy, depressed, or having thoughts about suicide or harming others. If they are, she says parents need to take it seriously and seek help immediately: help from a psychiatrist, therapist, counselor, or clergy.
“Medication is sometimes the answer but it’s certainly not the only answer out there,” Fisher said. “And so parents shouldn’t feel fearful that if they go to a psychiatrist they’ll automatically get put on a medication and that there will be no other option. There are always other options.”