With school starting soon, I am concerned about the
rising incidents of school violence. Are there warning
signs for youth violence? And if so, what can be done if
a young person displays them?
I remember the anticipation I experienced as the
beginning of a new school year drew near. I recall the
questions with which I was concerned: Who will my
teachers be? What schedule will I have? Will I have
classes with my best friends? I remember eagerly
awaiting the beginning of football season and all of the
fun that brought. I was excited about the start of a new
Even though that was not too long ago, it seems like my
experience was eons away. Gone are the days when
questions like mine were asked. We are ushering in a
new millennium with the memories of Padukah,
Jonesboro, and Littleton so thick we have to brush them
away from our faces. Now, instead of wondering about
class schedules and football games, our children
wonder, "Will my school be next?"
Concerned parents, teachers, school administrators, and
even youth now wonder if any warning signs exist that
would indicate someone is going down the path of
notoriety obtained by firing bullets into classmates. The
old adage "Hindsight is 20/20" is not good enough.
What is wanted is FORESIGHT.
Even though violence cannot be predicated, the
American Psychological Association and Music Television
(MW) teamed together and produced a video for youth
that provides an answer to this question. "Warning
Signs for Youth Violence" does not provide a foolproof
way to identify youth who will commit an act of
violence: rather, it provides a way to identify youth who
may be at risk and encourages that youth and parent to
obtain help for the emotional turmoil they are
Two main types of violence appear to be of greatest
importance: Youth homicide and youth suicide. Warning
signs for youth violence directed toward others are
1. being a victim of violence;
2. having been a victim of bullying;
3. feeling constantly disrespected;
4, feeling rejected or alone;
5. withdrawal from friends and usual activities;
6. announcing threats or plans for hurting others;
7. having a detailed plan for committing violence.
Warning signs for youth violence toward self include
1. saying goodbye to friends and family;
2. talking about not being around in the future;
3. giving away important possessions;
4. sudden increase in moodiness;
5. withdrawal or isolation; and
6. feeling of hopelessness. I f someone you know
appears to be suicidal, you can ask him or her if
they are serious about killing themselves; if their
mood is so bleak, and if they have a plan in place.
Once warning signs are observed, the question then
becomes what to do next. I f you are a youth, tell an
adult whom you trust. It doesn't have to be someone
connected to your friend, but it must be an adult you
trust. Tell your parents, a teacher, guidance counselor,
your pastor, or your youth minister at church. Tell
someone. I f you are an adult, take the warning signs
seriously. Many youth say they told an adult but were
not believed. Believe them.
If you are concerned about yourself or your child,
contact a mental health professional or your primary
care physician right away.
Answered by: Dr. Julie Howard, Ph.D.