Be on alert, for signs of teenage trouble

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The debate will continue for years about what caused another troubled young man to take out his troubles on strangers and then himself. Assault weapons, violent videogames, the Internet -- those and other influences are arguments for another day.

Today is a day for comforting the mourning and caring for the wounded, including the young man's family and other adults and young people with which he was involved.

It's always an appropriate time, however, to stay in touch with young people in our lives and be alert for warning signs that might, in extreme cases, lead to tragedies like that at the Omaha mall.

Experts say the two main causes of depression are unresolved grief -- due to death, the loss of relationship, loss of hopes and dreams, abandonment or a traumatic event; and emotional detachment -- from fear or the inability to connect with others.

From news reports, it seems the Omaha shooter could have been affected by all of the above -- being thrown out of his family's home, breaking up with a girlfriend, losing a fast-food job.

It would be a mistake to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions from news reports filed under the pressure of deadlines.

But parents and other adults should keep an eye out for warning signs:

* Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying -- teens may reflect sadness by wearing black clothes, writing poetry with morbid themes or having a preoccupation with music that has nihilistic themes. They may cry for no apparent reason.

* Hopelessness -- feeling life is not worth living, or even worth the effort to maintain their appearance or hygiene.

* Decreased interest in activities, or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities -- they may become apathetic and drop out of clubs, sports and other activities they once enjoyed.

* Persistent boredom, low energy.

* Social isolation, poor communication.

* Low self-esteem and guilt.

* Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure.

* Increased irritability, anger or hostility.

And there is a long list of other indications, such as difficulty with relationships, frequent illnesses, absences from school, poor performance in school and poor concentration, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, running away from home, talk of suicide, alcohol and drug abuse and self-injury.

Yes, many teenagers exhibit some of the symptoms to varying degrees at different times, but teens showing more than a few of the signs should receive professional help as soon as possible.

We're sure many people tried to intervene in the life of the sad young man who took so many other lives in Omaha on Wednesday.

But one of the saddest parts of the whole situation was his belief that shooting shoppers from the balcony of a store would somehow make him famous.

No, he's not famous. Just dead.

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  • The only problem is, many people are going to blame this kids' actions on his surroundings and his mental stability. I'm tired of hearing about kids with ADD, depression, and other mental illness getting away with things and then people are blaming it on the illness. We need to own up to our actions. Yes, people need to watch their children and be more involved with them to assist them in time of need, however when they reach adulthood they need to realize that they are responsible for their own actions...not some drug......

    -- Posted by Rural Citizen on Thu, Dec 6, 2007, at 1:35 PM
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