Drugging our disturbed children is not the answer, according to a family psychiatrist, who says the path to mental health requires a lot more effort on the part of the parents than simply making sure their children take their medication.
"Our children don't need more psychiatry," Dr. Peter Breggin, author of Guilt, Shame, and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming our Negative Emotions told CBN News. Breggin said that a psychiatrist's primary treatment, often the only treatment, is prescribing mind-altering medications.
"We have this giant social experiment going on of drugging our children," he said. "That's one of the reasons, not the only one, but it's one of the reasons we're having school shootings."
Breggin says the fact that a number of mass shooters were on psychiatric drugs means prescribing more of those drugs is not the answer, adding they can lower inhibition among young people and cause people to become violent in some cases.
"The shooter at Columbine was on psychiatric drugs. I was involved in legal cases surrounding Columbine," he said. "The shooter at Aurora was on psychiatric drugs recently and driven over the edge by them."
19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, the presumed killer in last week's Florida school shooting, was taking prescribed medications, according to a statement his adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, gave to Florida's Department of Children and Families in 2016. She died in November 2017. Barbara Kumbatovich, Lynda Cruz's former sister-in-law indicated to the Miami Herald Nikolas Cruz could have been on medication to deal with his emotions around the time of the shootings.
Breggin says healing disturbed children, and by extension, preventing problems in others requires parents connecting with their children in a positive way. "We need to get the parents into the lives of our children," he said.
Breggin says too many parents feel like they are not responsible for the trouble of their children and blame it on mental illness when the true cause is poor parenting.
Breggin says family counseling can reverse course, and that the first step is parents spending more quality time talking with their children. "The way to heal our children is through strengthening the family. That's number one," Dr. Breggin, explained. "We have to do that."
Breggin says both parents and children need to minimize screen time. He says parents need to better monitor what their children are doing in their spare time, including playing violent video games. "They dull our senses to violence. They make violence a competition," he said, adding, "I'm sure there are people out there in their own misery thinking they can get power and exert themselves in this way."
Breggin says the alienation today's kids are feeling largely originates with the break-down of society's institutions. "It's partly the family, partly the schools, partly the loss of religion and community. But when you feel alone and ashamed and often bullied, you begin to have fantasies of getting even, having power and of showing other people who you really are."
Breggin says schools need "to be places where children learn discipline and morality, which we are not doing, and making our schools present enough in the individual lives our kids that they feel engaged with the school."
Breggin says these days kids only feel engaged in school if they are top athletes or doing well academically.
Schools need to make sure kids like the Florida school shooter don't "fall between the cracks," Breggin explained, "That there are some services offered to him and to the family that is engaging him in the school, not shunting him off to psychiatry and psychiatric drugs."