It has been two days since the STEM Academy shooting crisis, and I am still beside myself. The grief of the community and the somberness of this week hangs over everything.
I want to validate that this is appropriate. This was a senseless act of violence that resulted in the death of a very good, brave, courageous, young man, Kendrick Castillo. His incredible sacrifice should not be forgotten and the grief we all feel for the world’s loss of his life in this world is completely appropriate. We should be sad to lose someone who clearly cared for his fellow humans so much.
It is okay to grieve. It is okay to be sad. This isn’t something we’re ready to comfort yet as a community and people should be allowed to react to this situation in ways that make sense to them and help them process.
Cope and Self-Care Well.
Please also keep in mind that healthy coping and self-care should also be on everyone’s mind. We should not stop embracing our loved ones or taking care of ourselves even if we might be feeling something akin to survivor’s guilt.
Continue to practice healthy hygiene, eat well, tell the people you care about that you love them. Life is too short. Healthy grief does mean ceasing good self-care.
React Appropriately on Social Media.
This one is what puzzled me most. What is the appropriate response when it comes to social media outlets? Many of us use this as a platform for self-expression and most of us are feeling shock, dismay, anger, outrage, grief. The list goes on.
We all need to be very careful about the copycat crime phenomenon.
Consider this very basic psychological principle. All behavior is goal oriented and motivated by something. While I strongly suspect the individuals involved in the STEM School shooting may have been mentally unstable (in order to place someone on a psychiatric hold, the criteria is that one must be a danger to self or others), there is still a strong chance that this principle applies to their actions.
So, what would be the motivating factor? In many cases like this, it seems to be attention. You might be logically thinking that this is the wort sort of attention ever!
I would agree. But consider the last time you were around a chronically misbehaving child. Many times, children misbehave because they know they’ll get attention even if it’s negative.
I’m going to ask you to think about operant conditioning. If you want to see a behavior more, you validate that behavior with a reward. If you want to see a behavior less, you don’t validate that behavior at all with any kind of reward. Sometimes, rewards are as simple as your reaction, be it positive or negative.
Therefore, when posting on social media, focus on the victims, focus on the people impacted by these events. Do not post about the individuals who enacted the shooting or spread their identities around the internet. Let’s keep the reward away from the people that want to do these horrible crimes. Otherwise, we can very easily contribute to the copycat crime phenomenon.
We legitimately need to be careful because once one shooting has occurred, it dramatically increases the chances of one following closely on its heels.
Let the People Involved Express Their Experiences.
We are often quick to use people as pawns for our political campaigns or to make a point. Let their stories speak for themselves and let them say what they have to say about this. There is no reason to use them in any way. Nor is there any time limit for their self-expression about this crisis. If the people that have been involved/impacted/victimized by this situation aren’t okay for a long time, that’s okay.
There is no time limit for something like this. Let’s let them grieve, be angry, be sad, be happy, whatever they feel whenever they feel it free of judgment. We all have our own unique ways of responding to these situations and coping with them. This is a part of respecting someone else’s unique process and validating them. Trust me, err on the side of validation in times like this.
It’s okay for people to feel how they feel about things. Their feelings cannot hurt you.
At the same time, if you think someone needs to bring a meant health professional on board to their current processing, bring up the suggestion very gently and be willing to have a very kind and patient conversation as to why you’re making this suggestion.
I hope that this opinion piece was helpful to you. Please keep in mind that it is strictly an opinion piece based on some of the reading I have been doing as I have been processing these events myself. We are all in this together. If you sense that you need to speak to someone about this recent crisis, do hot hesitate to call me or another mental health professional that you trust.