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Experts analyze psychology behind school shootings following deadly Nashville tragedy

Posted at 6:32 PM, Mar 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-28 19:32:31-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — When horrific tragedies occur, like school shootings, conversations about gun control, access to weapons and mental health reignite.

"It focuses a lot on mental health because questions come up. What brought that shooter and why that school and what would lead a person to do such a terrible act of mass violence?" said Dr. Chris Leeth, an Assistant Professor for Counseling and Educational Psychology at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi's College of Education and Human Development.

A day after the deadly incident at a Nashville Christian School,KRIS 6 News gained insight from the assistant professor who analyzed information released by authorities. No exact motive had been confirmed by police at the time of this report. However, Dr. Leeth said, school shooters typically share similar patterns of behavior.

"What we know about, with school shooters, is that they lack social problem solving skills and they start racking up a lot of losses and a lot of disappointments and that feeds into that resentment and it's handled in the worst possible way and that is to hurt and kill other people." he explained.

The police chief in Nashville said the 28-year-old gunman, identified as Audrey Hale was transgender and biologically born a woman. Investigators believe Hale was a former student at the religious school which was targeted. They also believe Hale had some resentment for that school.

"There's almost always an element of resentment, anger, paranoia." said Dr. Leeth. "Religion is not bad for many people. It serves as a method of connection, value, meaning spirituality and is an essential part of whole wellness. In some cases, when someone doesn't fit in and doesn't feel connected though and is actively being judged or shamed, that could cause a lot of severe feelings of disconnection."

Dr. Leeth believes, part of the solution to prevent tragedies, like the recent incident, is to address the mental health crisis.

"We have wonderful school counselors who are more than capable of working with these kids. Giving those school counselors the time, space, and resources to provide that care would be a huge step forward." he added. "The other part is, it's difficult to acknowledge as a parent my child is struggling. Not acknowledging it though is not going to make that struggle go away. Facing and accepting it for what it is and saying hey I'm going to get my kid some help, that's a great step forward.

He mentioned, there are several affordable resources for families locally and said the university also has resources for community members in need of services as well.

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Leeth also said it's important to secure firearms.

As for psychological impacts of tragic news, Leeth said, if a child experiences fear or doubt with tragic events, he encourages parents to have conversations with their children. He said if concerns continue and if parents are nervous about their child's safety, he recommends talking to the school about safety procedures in place. Virtual schooling or homeschooling options could be recommended for students and families who continue to have concerns they don't feel are addressed.