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Psychiatrists Focus on Teen Violence

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Thomas advocates an approach in which young therapists are sent into schools before violence occurs to try to connect with teens who are having problems. Thomas, who is also director of Emory's Institute of Minority Health Research, did not attend the APA meeting.

Fink tells WebMD that most of the solutions put forth for youth violence focus on punishing the children who commit these crimes -- and this is because such approaches have a strong public appeal. Punishment may feel good to the general public, but unfortunately, he says, it doesn't work well in preventing violence. A better approach is to design methods to help keep kids from becoming violent.

For example, he says, it's been shown that kids who skip school are more likely to be murdered or to murder someone else. So it came as no surprise to him that efforts to enforce school attendance in Philadelphia have had the added benefit of reducing youth violence in that city.

Members of the APA panel point out that the psychiatric community cannot act alone, and stress the need for increased resources in schools and in the wider public arena.

"This is a complex issue," Thomas says. "We need to stay on it longer than a media minute."

Even as the psychiatrists met, the Sheriff's Department in Jefferson County, Colo., released a minute-by-minute account of the Columbine shootings, showing that the 12 students killed by the teen-age gunmen were dead within 16 minutes and that the two gunmen had killed themselves within 57 minutes of starting the attack.

But the 700-page report left the most important question about the shootings open.

"While this report established a record of the events of April 20," said Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone, "it cannot answer the most fundamental question -- why?"

 

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