At 8am this morning as I sat on my couch in my living room, my husband shared a news story with me about a 22 year old college student named Elliot Rodger who went on a shooting spree in Isla Vista, CA last night. As he read me the horrifying story about the lonely and angry young man who wanted revenge on all of humanity because of the countless women who wouldn't date him, my comment was, "If only his parents has gotten him some help". My husband looked at me confused and said, "He is 22 years old. It's not like his parents can force him to go to therapy or anything". I explained that at some point, this 22 year old was a teenager, a child, who lived with his parents. And I am sure that his problems aren't new, and had probably been going on for quite some time. This level of anger and depression doesn't happen over night.
Then we watched the YouTube video that Elliot had posted days before his shooting spree (since then, the video has been taken down). What I saw made my stomach drop. A young Caucasian male (who apparently grew up in Calabasas) sitting in his BMW, detailing his rage, anger, depression, feelings of loneliness and rejection, and his plans for revenge and murder. But the part of the video that stood out most to me wasn't what Elliot was saying. It was how he was saying it. An odd pattern of speech, a lack of understanding about social interactions and conventions, a repetitive pattern and usage of language, and a very stereotyped version of a maniacal laugh, dramatic pauses, and hand gestures. This kid likely had Asperger's Syndrome. Another story that will probably give autism spectrum disorders negative publicity and a bad rap.
How does it come to be that, after the media investigates the killers, so many of these kids end up being on the spectrum? Let's take a look at what Asperger's and Autism are at their core... Difficulties with social interactions, and a lack of understanding about others emotions and social conventions. Unfortunately, too often these kids are bullied and teased growing up, causing them to be angry, lonely, and depressed. Take a kid like that, throw in poor coping skills and a lack of social support, and you can begin to imagine where things could go wrong.
And that is where mental health services come in. If parents are aware that their children are struggling, the earlier they step in and seek help, the better. For any struggling child, but especially for kids on the spectrum, mental health services can make a significant positive impact. In Elliot Rodger's YouTube video, he mentioned that his difficulties with depression and loneliness began during puberty. I cannot speak to any support, interventions, or therapy he may or may not have had, but I can say that at the age of 22, if he had gotten help right when his problems began back when he hit puberty, there is a chance that his anger may not have been so lethal as it was last night.
So please, if you, your children, or any loved one is struggling, please seek help. Therapy and other mental health services can be a life saver not only for them or yourself, but for others around them.