We live in an era where seemingly random acts of violence occur at an ever-increasing pace. But why? What is it that pushes these disturbed individuals to commit such atrocities? In this episode, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss which mental health factors may influence this type of behavior, as well as ways we can reduce the likelihood of incidence in our own children, or perhaps be better prepared should the worst occur.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD and addictions.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warriors Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. School shooters. The news of this is heartbreaking, repeated, and it's really a national crisis. It's a national scandal. When I was at The White House, it was actually one of the discussions that we had, and why have we not solved this problem in the United States? Part of it is gun laws, and part of it is mental health, how it's currently conducted.
Tana Amen: All the other laws and whatever, the [fight against 00:01:44], God knows what will happen. Mental health is a huge part of it. If you look around, because it's not just in the US. All over the world you got people driving trucks into large crowds. You've got a guy in Japan who runs into a train station with a samurai sword and kills 25 people before someone can stop him. It's going on all over the place. What's going on? In the States, it's guns.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We talked about the unhappiness epidemic. Part of it is that, that people who are happy, connected with healthy brains do not do this.
Tana Amen: This seems beyond that. This seems like spiritual bankruptcy or mental illness.
Dr. Daniel Amen: As we talk about those four circles, it completely matters. Recently, as we record this, there was the 19-year-old boy in Florida who gave off so many signs that he was a troubled person. In fact, he called the FBI and said. He warned them.
Tana Amen: He was looking for help.
Dr. Daniel Amen: He warned them even to the point where my mother just died.
Tana Amen: He had weapons. People he was living with knew he had weapons.
Dr. Daniel Amen: When this stresses stack, sometimes they stack so much that people explode. Now we've often talked about there are biological reasons, psychological reasons, social and spiritual. Now sometimes there's just biological reasons. The video that I did about my nephew, Andrew, who attacked a little girl on a baseball field, there were really no psychological, social or spiritual reasons. He had a cyst in his brain that was occupying the space that's often involved in violence.
Tana Amen: Right, and you hear stories about people having brain tumors.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Sometimes it's biological. Sometimes it could just be psychological or just social, if you think of gang violence. That is really social violence, and sometimes people are so spiritually empty, bankrupt. I think to really understand what happened you have to look at all of the circles.
Tana Amen: He clearly had a lot. His mother died.
Dr. Daniel Amen: He'd been diagnosed and medicated for depression, dyslexia, ADHD, and autism. Clearly, there was something not right in his brain. Now of course, probably nobody scanned him. No one had really been thinking, what's the matter with his brain? There's some suggestion he had fetal alcohol syndrome because of some of his facial features. He was adopted, so that goes to the psychological and social circles, for sure. If you are poisoned while you're developing as a fetus, that's not going to predict good things for you. Clearly, there's biological things. Many people who collect a lot of guns have a little OCD. They can't stop thinking about this thing. It can be harmful, if you're not emotionally balanced per se. Same thing is true with the Las Vegas shooter.
Tana Amen: There were signs there.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Who was also on medication.
Tana Amen: There were signs.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm not opposed to medicine. I'm just opposed to the indiscriminate use of medicine where no one has ever looked at your brain. They're throwing darts in the dark.
Tana Amen: Aurora, he'd been seeking out help.
Dr. Daniel Amen: When President Obama said, "We need more mental health care," almost all of the shooters had received mental health care. We need mental health care in a new and different way, in a completely new and radically different way that actually involves looking at their brain and balancing their brain. As soon as someone sees their brain, the issue becomes medical and not moral. It's not because I'm a bad person I have this problem. It's because my brain is hurt. Our friends from Hong Kong, when I scanned their boy who was a teenager, and he was having trouble in school, his mother had a really hard birth with him. You could actually see the damage from the birth trauma on his scan at 17. He said to the mom, "It's not me, it's what happened to me."
Tana Amen: That kid had really struggled up until that point, had a lot. In their society to struggle the way he did was stigmatizing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Shameful.
Tana Amen: Shameful, yes. You dishonor your family. It's a terrible thing especially in their socioeconomic bracket.
Dr. Daniel Amen: In understanding this boy, there are clear brain issues going on. There are a lot of psychological issues going on. He was adopted. Being adopted, it affects everybody. We're back to the idea of trying to understand why these school shootings happen.
Tana Amen: Look, so many of us have a hard time, not only understanding, but wanting to understand. Before I met you, I wouldn't have wanted to understand, quite frankly. I just wouldn't have. You have turned my world upside down.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yes, that is true.
Tana Amen: No, you've turned my world upside down. It is annoying sometimes because it's easier to just you need someone to blame. You need to someone to pin it on. You need someone.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That's the easy answer.
Tana Amen: It is.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The easy answer is, you are bad. You have complete control over your behavior. We should kill you. That's the easy answer. The harder answer is, why? Why did that happen?
Tana Amen: Look, I still struggle. I'm being very candid here, and I'm probably going to get people on this show who hate me for saying this.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Nobody could hate you.
Tana Amen: No, they can. It's easy to not like me, but here's the truth.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I don't find it easy not to like you.
Tana Amen: Here's the dirty truth. The really, awful, ugly truth is that I still struggle, and I squirm because there's a part of me, especially somebody that grew up in a really not easy environment, and who's been attacked, or who's been in a bad situation. There's a part of me that wants to lash out and want blood for that crime. Then there's the other side of me who now is educated and who's this kid sought help, this kid needed help. This kid reached out to the freaking FBI, telling them, "I'm a risk. I'm a threat."
Dr. Daniel Amen: Repeatedly. Society let everybody down in this situation. Just thinking about the psychological vulnerabilities from being adopted to obviously having a lot of negative thoughts.
Tana Amen: He was devastated when his mother died. He was unstable.
Dr. Daniel Amen: His father died when he was 10, I think, of a heart attack. Maybe he was five. I think he was five, of a heart attack in front of him, which is clearly traumatic for a child. If you look at the traumas in his life, they are many. Then socially, he was isolated, and he joined ROTC. He's getting social connection through violence. He was learning how to be a warrior. We can just conjecture, but it's probably true. He's spiritually bankrupt. When you put all of those factors together, the massive loss, the massive social disconnection, the troubled brain, it's a prescription for disaster.
Tana Amen: Sometimes people can overcome, if they're only struggling in one of the circles. If you've got three or four of them, probably not.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Almost all of the violent people I've seen, that they have multiple areas, except the ones that have these cysts.
Tana Amen: Cysts or tumors.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Or they have strokes in the wrong place. That's why you have to protect your brain. If you don't protect the developing brain, we are at more risk, and the level of toxins in our society, I think, it really matters to it. Why is the incidence of ADD, why is the incidence of autism, why is the incidence of school shootings all gone up? It's in large part because of the vulnerabilities in all four of those circles.
Tana Amen: I don't think we can talk about this without talking about the effect it's having on kids in school who are now scared and parents who are now scared.
Dr. Daniel Amen: They should be. Parents are buying tracking devices for their children, so they know how to get to them immediately.
Tana Amen: I've had it on my phone for Khloe forever. I've always had one on there. I know where my whole family is. I know how fast all of you drive, and I know exactly how much battery life you have left on your phones. Just FYI, the NSA has got nothing on me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Do you want to tell them the app because they're going to go [crosstalk 00:11:27].
Tana Amen: Yeah, Life 360. It's awesome. It's amazing. I love Life 360.
Dr. Daniel Amen: They know your every move, so they can market to you.
Tana Amen: Yes, I know all of their moves. I really like it. This is a day and age where it's not why we did it, but I'm actually grateful now that Khloe is home schooled. I'm incredibly grateful. Two days after that shooting there was a lockdown at my daughter's school. They found a kill list in one of the kid's backpacks. He was suspended and showed up at school, so craziness. It's just craziness. I don't have to worry about that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Intervening is making sure as a society that our children are healthy, biologically. Their brains are healthy, their minds are healthy.
Tana Amen: In other words, do your part.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The social connections are healthy, and they have a spiritual core.
Tana Amen: To that point, I think we need to do our part as a society and as parents. What I mean by this is there was a child at Khloe's school who clearly was troubled. Doing what we do, I'm only guessing that the child had autism, but it was pretty significant. He would fight with other children. Teachers didn't want to deal with him, and I knew the mom. The mom would, for some reason, she would talk to me all the time. This mother did not ever want to admit here child had a problem. It was just devastating to her to admit that her child had a problem. She would not go get help. She would not have him diagnosed with anything. That is a disservice to the child. This child grew up basically being isolated from other kids, and that's why he was mean. Kids were mean to him, so he was mean to other kids. That's a big part of it.
Now we've got this problem. Now the parents and the kids are being mean to this child. We need to do better both ways. That mom needs to be more aware and not in denial that her child has a problem, but also other parents and other kids need to not make it so hard for people to get help and not stigmatize so much. You know what I'm saying? If we were better as a society together, it would probably not be as difficult for people to acknowledge that their children need help. That's one thing. The other thing is educating your kids. Do your part about getting some education about what to do if there's a problem on school campuses. Schools do what they can, which isn't much. It's just not much.
Dr. Daniel Amen: They have thousands and thousands of children.
Tana Amen: Right. Join the PTA. My suggestion is join the PTA, organize some meetings. Get people like my friend. We actually had him come to our office and do a training. My friend who's a police officer came to the office to do some training. Literally, what, the next week, it paid off. We had someone who ended up not being a real threat, but we had someone who, it was a scary situation for the staff, but they handled it smoothly. We want you to be paying attention. Do you part. Don't just be scared and blame other people. Get involved.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Do your part in those four circles. What can you do biologically for your children, psychologically, socially and spiritually?
Tana Amen: Organize some meetings. That's what I would suggest. Train your kids.