The wave of school violence perpetrated by young people has become a household concern across our nation. As experts in the field of child and adolescent mental health, Bradley Hospital staf members are often asked to provide explanations for such behavior. Although we cannot predict or explain behavior fully, we can attempt to understand and provide solutions to the current epidemic of school violence.
The violence among our youth may be understood as an expression of anger that results from feeling alienated and misunderstood. Adolescents who are disconnected from adults and who have not internalized values and morals often turn to negative "heroes" glorified by the popular culture. These heroes provide answers and allow teens to feel understood and accepted. Many adults tend to minimize teens' passion for dark characters and explain their fascination as "just a stage." The challenge for all adults, including professionals at Bradley Hospital, is to convince youth that we are willing to listen and help.
Many Bradley programs partner with the community to bridge gaps in services provided to youth. The Child and Adolescent Program works collaboratively with the Providence Police Department and Providence school system to identify and treat potentially violent youth. The early childhood program collaborates with local Head Start. The Bradley School consults and works with many public school systems and the Developmental Disabilities Program is very involved with the community regarding residential treatment for clients.
Bradley's growing presence in the community demonstrates our commitment to reach children and adolescents. However, mental health professionals and community organizations can only be part of the solution. We all must listen closely to our children, respond quickly when they are troubled and do our utmost to identify and eliminate the factors that contribute to violence among young people.