Mental Health and Mass Murders: The Connection between Trauma and School Shootings

Mental Health and Mass Murders: The Connection between Trauma and School Shootings 


Almost every type of violent criminal has a motive or driving purpose that makes them want to commit an act of violence against another human being. A special type of violent criminal is the school shooter, who is an individual who takes it upon themself to target innocent children and adults in a classroom setting. One of the most influential factors of a school shooter’s development into a killer is the trauma that they experienced at an early age. Kristen Rowe from the American University Washington College of Law explains that “68% of school shooters witnessed or experienced some form of childhood trauma” (Rowe, 2022). Being exposed to emotional or physical trauma at an early age pushes these children, mostly young boys, to alienate themselves from their family. This makes it much more difficult for them to socialize with children at their school. 


Even though the trauma that has been done on these children is most likely something they will have to live the rest of their lives with, intervention is a possibility and one of the best approaches to preventing a school shooting. Deborah M. Weisbrot, M.D. examined the family-life of multiple school shooters and made some interesting conclusions about the importance of spotting school-shooter behavior early. In fact, there were several recommendations that Weisbrot provided, which included: having a child/adolescent psychiatrist evaluate the threats of a school shooting, ensuring that the school consultant is prepared to interpret complex individual, family and group dynamics potentially leading to the expression of threats, such as retaliation for bullying and teasing, and that effective treatment options are made available to the troubled child and their family (Weisbrot, 2008). 


Lastly, I’d like to talk about the efforts that should be made towards dedicating resources to victims of school shootings that survived the encounter. These individuals are victims because they have to carry the burden of witnessing others being killed and the stress of almost being killed themselves. This is a severe form of mental trauma that would weigh anyone down. Maya Rossin-Slater from Stanford University’s Institute for Economic Policy Research researched the rate of antidepressant medication prescriptions being written for residents that lived within five miles of a school shooting and discovered some interesting findings. Rossin-Slater’s results indicated “that the average monthly number of antidepressant prescriptions written to youth under age 20 by providers located near schools that experienced a fatal shooting was 21.3 percent higher relative to providers located farther away in the two to three years following a shooting than in the two years before” (Rossin-Slater, 2022). 




Rowe, K. (2022, July 24). Influence of childhood trauma on perpetrators of mass shootings. crimlawpractitioner. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from


Rossin-Slater, M. (2022, June). Surviving a school shooting: Impacts on the mental health, education, and earnings of American Youth. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from


Weisbrot , D. M. (2008, August). Prelude to a School Shooting? Assessing Threatening Behaviors in Childhood and Adolescence. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from

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