Every parent’s worst nightmare
Several months ago, every parent’s worst nightmare came to life in a heart breaking loss experienced by the whole world. Find what we can do to prevent such an event from happening in Malaysia.
I was putting my bag away at the back when I heard the loud banging. It sounded like lots pots and pans dropping on the ground. But then I heard screaming! I got really scared. I couldn’t move. The banging kept going and the screaming grew louder. It won’t stop. I want it to stop!
I was then dragged into our musical closet along with my other classmates and was asked to wait there and be quiet. Miss told us to think of Christmas which was coming up and all the presents I would get from Santa. She then started to sing Jingle Bells, closing the closet door and leaving us in the dark.
The banging got louder and louder and the screaming was so scary! But then I heard sirens, the police are coming to save us from the angry man! The banging then ended after one last bang but we still stayed in the closet because we were scared. What if the angry man comes for us?
Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare: Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting
This was the reality for Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut on 14 December 2012. It is the second deadliest school shooting in the United States with the deaths of 20 innocent children between the ages of six and seven and six adults.
The gunman was hardly an adult himself, and was identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who was said to be suffering from mental illness.
This brings up the important discussion on whether enough is being done for those who are diagnosed with mental illness, and what we can do to help these people.
Signs that your child has a mental illness
theAsianparent Malaysia spoke to Associate Professor Dr. Aili Hanim Hashim who is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at University of Malaya Medical Centre.
“It is rare for children below the age of 12 to have serious mental illness,” she said.
Professor Dr Aili said that more serious mental illness such as the ones stated below are more commonly seen during the adolescent years especially in the later adolescent years.
- Psychotic disorders/ tendencies such as schizophrenia
- Mood disorders such as bipolar mood disorders
- Major depression
- Severe behavioural difficulties usually as a result of difficult childhood e.g. abuse, domestic violence.
If the child is in their early adolescence, the above mentioned illnesses are more non-specific in their picture. Professor Dr Aili says that a mixed picture is seen making the diagnosis difficult, with a more definite diagnosis made several years later.
In the initial phase, the picture could be:
- Neglect self-care
- General malaise
- Not doing things or not enjoying things as before
- Sleep difficulties
- School difficulties
In children with behaviour difficulties, there may defiant behaviour in the initial phase before more severe anti-social behaviour is seen in young adults i.e. the frequent use of aggressive, intimidating or destructive activity that damages or destroys another person's quality of life.
What threats should parents take seriously?
“Hardly anyone just snaps,” said Professor Dr Aili.
There are usually clues, such as, when these people talk to other people about what they are thinking about or thinking about doing.
These clues include:
- When someone is paranoid and having unusual thinking (delusions) e.g. people wanting to harm them, people are following/watching them
- Wanting to hurt others
- Impulsive i.e. doing things without thinking
“Any forms of threats should be taken seriously,” said Professor Dr Aili.
However, Professor Dr Aili said that over the years, the increasing use of illicit drugs has complicated the picture.
What should parents do when their child displays violent behaviour?
Some family members choose to wait and are tolerant of aggressive and violent behaviour until someone is hurt. But Professor Dr Aili says that you should take immediate action and seek help.
Professionals can look out for why the person has a change in behaviour and how to manage such behaviour.
Even though the US media highlighted that Adam Lanza “was weird” and “a loner”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the child is likely to be violent in later years.
Professor Dr Aili says that it is usually a cumulative of things that drives the person to commit such a violent crime.
So if your child behaves violently, Professor Dr Aili urges parents to: “Seek help immediately. Stop nagging or asking them questions of why they behave as such.”
Take it day by day
It is hard to care for a mentally ill child, so it is important to take it day by day. Live every day giving all the love and care to your little one. Give your child all the help you can give your kid all the support he or she may need.
After the terrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary we all should hug our children a little tighter and be thankful for every day we get to spend with them.