Op-Ed: The Explosive Cart before the Mental Health Horse by Fran White


It was not the firearms that killed those innocent seventeen Florida victims but the mentally disturbed individual who pulled the trigger! In addition to Nickolas Cruz and his automatic weapons, those who ignored all of the red flags of his disturbed behavior over many years enabled this tragedy to occur. The school administrators, who swept this boy under the rug by expelling him without community supervision and sent him into further solitude and isolation to fester his rage can be perceived as most responsible for the murders.

The most guilty accomplices of this crime are the so-called mental health clinicians who failed to provide this emotionally disturbed youth with the mandatory in-patient treatment that was so needed. His deceased, adoptive mother, due to her deep love of this boy, enabled his disturbed behavior by not facilitating hospitalization after over forty police visitations to the home before she died. Our government agencies, who are employed to protect citizens, are also most responsible for ignoring all of the social media postings and warnings from Nickolas and others due to profound incompetence.

Nickolas was a victim of bullies throughout his young life, and this form of behavioral cruelty provoked the rage and depression of this child. Indeed, he was not a personable and acceptable person amongst his peers but where was the compassion of others to notice the pain and suffering that Nickolas was experiencing especially last November when he lost his only parent who provided unconditional love? His fellow students chose to isolate and ridicule him and failed to actively and loudly alert their teachers and administrators of this dysfunctional peer. Indifference and Denial are the sins of those who failed to previously respond to this tragic event.

Are we only going to direct our political focus upon gun control laws, the believed explosive cart that the government and their constituents are targeting as the driven force that is responsible for these horrific deaths? Gun control laws alone will not eliminate any further school massacres, but the most relevant intervention that will prevent the loss of so many of our children is competent and well trained mental health professionals working in our schools and identifying troubled and disturbed children at an early age.

School personnel needs to be properly trained, not armed, in the identification and management of emotionally troubled students. Anti-bullying programs need to be part of and perfected in all school curriculums with a focus on incorporating character development programs such as Character Counts with a focus on teaching and reinforcing compassion and kindness to others by students, teachers, administrators and, of course, parents. Let’s not place the cart of gun control before the horse of mental health intervention! NOW is the time to act and not after we have another precious child die due to denial and indifference.

Dr. Fran White is a psychologist and marriage and family therapist who has been in private practice for over three decades. She was a columnist for her regional newspaper and has written about human behavior and problem-solving. Fran resides on the Eastern Shore with her husband, Tom, and is a grandmother of nine grandchildren. 

Letters to Editor

  1. Hearing the statement over and over that it’s not the gun that does the killing, but the hand that holds the gun, as a means to justify the presence of the gun is getting tiring to my ears. Yes Cruz was a victim and terribly deranged boy, but he could have stood on that school ground all day with a stick or bow and arrow or a butcher knife or whatever in his hand and not kill the number of children it took him six minutes to do.
    Of course institute the mental health training and treatment so necessary and begin at once. But there is no cart for this horse. While the training and recognition takes effect, do something simple and concrete – control the spread of guns.

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