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The Psychology of a Mass Shooter, 1 in 4 American Youth Have Mental Problems

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Professor James Cassidy, head of the criminal justice department at the University of New Haven is a clinical psychologist and attorney. He is also the former head of Connecticut’s Whiting Forensic Institute, a hospital for the criminally insane.

Cassidy says that mass shooters plan their actions with the idea that they are going to die and so they plan to take a lot of people with them. They are deeply angry. In the Newtown case, the suspect killed his mother and may have felt jealous of his mother’s love for her students So he was interested in killing not only her but also the students she loved. Most mass murderers do not survive the incident so there is little actual research on their thinking.

Cassidy also notes that tragedies like the one in Newtown can be very traumatizing to young children – and not only the ones at the scene. Children who see reports of the crime may feel school is not a safe place.


Berndattte Melnyk of Ohio State University notes that approximately one out of 4 children, teens and college youth have a mental health problem, yet less than 25% get any treatment whatsoever at all.

Melnyk says: “Let’s not wait until another tragic school shooting occurs before rapidly mobilizing action to accelerate our efforts in screening for and treating mental health problems in our children and youth. Let’s also equip our children and youth with the coping skills they need to deal with their everyday stressors and give mental health the attention it deserves so we can diminish the tremendous suffering that accompanies these disorders and create a healthy foundation for a productive adulthood.”

Melnyk has excellent background and credentials to discuss the shootings in Newtown, CT. Melnyk is dean of the College of Nursing, associate vice president for health promotion, and chief wellness officer of the university. She also is a professor of nursing and professor of psychiatry and pediatrics in the OSU College of Medicine.

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