Michael Shaffran, LCSW

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Quick Facts

  • CARING, COMPASSIONATE AND CONCERNED COUNSELOR
  • 35 YEARS IN THE MENTAL HEALTH AND PSYCHIATRY PROFESSION
  • TRAINED IN MULTIPLE THERAPIES: GESTALT, EMDR, HYPNOSIS, SOLUTION FOCUSED,
    PSYCHODYNAMIC AND FAMILY THERAPY
  • PROVIDES THERAPY IN SPANISH AND UNDERSTANDS LATINO AND HISPANIC CULTURES
  • MULTICULTURAL BACKGROUND: TAUGHT ENGLISH IN KOREA; TRAVELLED THROUGH ASIA, RUSSIA, EUROPE AND THE CARIBBEAN

After The Aftermath of Newtown, CT
Written by Mike Shaffran   

Now that it’s been over 6 weeks since the terrible shooting—really a massacre—in Newtown, CT, I feel it safe to speak out about the mental health issues that have been lightly touched upon.  What I mean by lightly is that several pundits have talked about the need for background checks on people who buy guns. There should be an FBI check on their mental health history and a determination on whether to allow a sale to them depending on a history of presumably psychosis versus neurosis. If someone has been depressed and taken, for example, Prozac, law enforcement might not allow an arms sale to them. What the public doesn’t know and many law enforcement agencies or gun sales people is that depression per se does not often, in and of itself, lead to homicide. Severe depression can lead to suicide. In the case of Mr. Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook, it led to homicide and suicide. I have not read all the psychoanalyses of his mental condition but it appears that he suffered from psychosis; perhaps, Paranoid Schizophrenia. This is a far more extreme case of mental illness than mild to moderate depression; anxiety; panic disorder etc. A thorough investigation of someone’s mental health history needs to be done with professionals (and perhaps, a panel of them) to determine the severity of the illness before a blanket decision is made that a gun sale should be prohibited to a gun purchaser. I am not an NRA member and have never owned any guns of any kind. Yet, I believe that citizens who support the Second Amendment should be given the benefit of doubt with respect to legal purchases of weapons for sports hunting or target shooting and the like.

My second point is that I absolutely agree with President Obama and Vice President, Joe Biden that we should put a ban on semi-automatic handguns and 57% of the US agrees. We should ban high capacity clips and 59% of the US public agrees. I agree with Senator Feinstein that we should outlaw assault style weapons—those used primarily in combat. By the way, the police and law enforcement are in agreement with this as well—no surprise, as many police departments are being outgunned by criminals and police officers are being maimed or killed in the line of duty. There is no reason to sell these type of weapons to mentally and emotionally unstable people like Mr. Lanza-CT; Mr. Holmes-CO; Mr. Loughner-AZ or Mr.Cho-VA to name a few murderers in recent years. Without a doubt, there needs to be legislation to put a stop to these horrific “weapons of mass destruction” but more needs to be done on a societal level to look at the messages we are giving boys and young men (primarily) about how to not deal with one’s anger and rage appropriately.

My third and final point is this: We as a society, nation and world need to figure out ways to educate and guide our boys into manhood in more appropriate ways. We need to find ways to help them feel included, not excluded from society if they are different and perhaps, do not fit the classic stereotypes of success in society: high academic achievement or athletic prowess. There are many ways we can acknowledge, honor and respect the differences in boys and young men who are not mainstream so that they do not feel alienated or like an outsider in society. We want our school counselors to do a better job in spotting those youth who do not fit in and seem lost or alienated to get one- on- one attention from teachers, counselors, administrators, and even fellow students. As an example, I saw in the interviews with a fellow student who graduated from Newtown High School that he noted that Adam Lanza was always alone and no one ever spoke to him. This student said, “had I known he was so lonely, I would have tried to develop a friendship with him.” How tragic that this human contact never took place. What keeps us as a society from reaching out and really trying to make emotional contact with our fellow students; neighbors; workers; and citizens? If we can address these more fundamental issues, I think that along with mental health background checks, bans on assault weapons and ammunition clips that we stand a good chance of not only slowing down mass violence—if not eliminating most of it—as well as creating a society that is more inclusive, supportive and life affirming!

 
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