Why do people commit mass shootings?

It happened again. Someone walked into a “safe” place with a gun, opened fire, and the number of casualties is terrifying. You just don’t understand what could prompt someone to do that.

And, as you’re trying to understand and come to terms with it, your kids might be asking you why it happened. That’s normal, because we’re our children’s guides to the world. We explain everything from why the sun sets to why we can’t bring that sick baby bird in the house. When they don’t understand something, they look to us because they know we’ll always have the answer. But at the moment, you don’t have a clue as to how to explain it – without beginning a lengthy discussion of hatred, politics, discrimination or mental health.

As professional counselors, we don’t have easy answers, either. We’re intrigued when we hear about mass shootings and other horrific crimes, because our profession is all about understanding human behavior. We learn from every client and everyone we interact with. The people who commit mass shootings and other crimes are outliers. We don’t know what their stories are or why they felt a need to lash out so violently. If we knew, we might be able to see the same tendencies in someone else and steer them down a different path in life.

What we do know is that we all have needs, and we all have different ways of addressing those needs. When we get stressed, some of us reach for a glass of wine, some of us for a donut, and some of us do yoga. When we get angry, we may go jogging, take deep breaths, or talk it out with a friend. Often, the people in incidents such as this lack coping mechanisms. Sometimes they have mental illnesses. Sometimes they have such deeply rooted hate that they don’t see alternatives or solutions.

Kids who are bullies often grow up to be abusers or to commit other violent acts. When they’re feeling hurt, angry, or inadequate as children, they make themselves feel better by trying to make other people feel worse. Somehow, that helps, so they use similar tactics as they become adults.

Whatever the reason, we’re now left with more questions than answers, more traumatized families trying to make sense of their lives, and more unrest in our country. At Care to Change, we’re saddened and we’re praying for those affected. As caregivers, we’re called to be there in these moments, applying our training and faith to help during these difficult times.

We may never know exactly what prompted this event, but it’s reminder that we all need to develop healthy ways to express our emotions, thoughts and opinions. We need conflict resolutions skills. We need community wide collaborative efforts to meet the needs of those with mental health issues.

Care to Change is leading an effort to develop a community wide crisis response team, in case we are faced with such tragedy. Partnering with the Hendricks County Health Partnership, we’re also leading the county mental health workgroup to address mental health needs. If you’re interested in joining those efforts, contact April at april.bordeau@caretochange.org. We welcome you.

And, if you’re worried that the communication or coping strategies you (or a loved one) are using aren’t entirely healthy, set up an appointment with us. We’ll be happy to listen to your concerns and help you find more effective ways to deal with your emotions.

Joining hearts in prayer for our country today.