Storm clouds form at the onset of a rain storm. Generally that is a sign to prepare accordingly… Should you choose to ignore the signs then the consequences can be greater than the steps toward prevention.
As I scroll through the various articles surrounding the Sandy Hook shooting I wonder how many of us would have been aware of Adam Lanza in a crowd? Let’s say we did take notice of Lanza, would we have made ourselves available to proactively engage him with conversation to provide the socialization piece that he may have lacked or would we have brushed his behavior of as a personality trait and ignored him? Socialization is a fundamental skill that all kids should be learning while in school and if a student or person in general is not taking advantage of that opportunity then a problem exists. We were created for fellowship. Sure some people like to be by themselves but I bet a nickel that every person’s preference for isolation stems from a hurtful circumstance and they have identified isolation as a defense mechanism or a moment to process the event. (I’ve got one nickel so far because I am including myself) Hence a problem still exists because to be alone detracts from happiness. Does it not?
In my years as a school resource officer I prided myself on mixing and mingling with the students to identify the tendencies, get a feel for what trends were happening, what fights were taking place after school, and most importantly extending myself to students who seemed introverted and stayed to themselves. I was always able to tell when something was out of sync and proactively address it. My purpose for engaging introverted people is to let them know that somebody acknowledged them. They were not invisible and they mattered. It has been my experience that during middle and high school years, children can be brutal yet very influential to one another often creating either a victim with no alliance or a strong relationship that serves as a representation for self-worth (think gangs, teams, social groups, gothic, EMO, etc.,). School officials and parents should be sensitive to behaviors that are outside the perceived norm! I have never been involved in a school shooting and I only presume that my proactive actions of engagement as a school resource officer somehow prevented what could have happened. I believe personally that clues and warning signs manifest before the cataclysmic event which many first responders (parents, teachers, School Resource Officers, and friends) often ignore during early years of development.
“We wear the mask” written by Paul Laurence Dunbar is, in my opinion, subject to multiple interpretations. It is a phenomenal poem that I often reference when mentoring young people. Though it is recognized as a representation of the African American plight in America, its context is relevant to the universal hurt and disappointment that challenges all people at one point or another. We evolve into creatures of habit that tend to hide how we really feel! What benefit does that gain? Counseling should not be utilized after the fact when catastrophe happens but rather emphasized on the front end to proactively educate people on acquiring better coping skills and awareness of the subconscious issues in their lives. I benefited greatly from counseling in my latter years because it helped me to think outside of the contextual and psychological box I was raised in.
In my youth, counselors were perceived as passive people and as a result they did not get the respect that they truly deserved as being an integral part of the mental health arena. As counselors I think we need to put ourselves in proactive positions of advocacy because we are relevant!!!! If you’re a counselor whether licensed or aspiring, be vigilant in educating others about subliminal issues that can exist outside of the awareness. We know these subliminal issues have the ability to subconsciously drive our behavior in ways that can create both good and negative consequences. Collectively we can prevent catastrophes by being more proactive at investigating the warning signs.
Kareem Puranda is a counselor-in-training at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is an advocate for the disadvantaged population and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org