Violence in Youth

Marie DiGerolamo, Staff Writer

Violence is prominent in today world, and grwing among teenagers. Many “normal” teenagers deal with their anger maturely, but some express it explosively. In 1993, two-year-old James Patrick Bulger was lured out of a Liverpool shopping center by two other older boys. The ten-year-old boys Robert Thompson and Jon Venables abducted James, then molested the child and beat him to a pulp. While the two boys were still young, they were very upfront about why they murdered the child; Thompson and Venables said they wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone. Most typical teenagers–let alone children–don’t wonder what it’s like to take an innocent person’s life and even if they do, they don’t actually go through with the process. However, this is definitely not the only case of anger and violence taken to extremes.

On November 14, 2019, yet another high school fell victim to a shooting. Students were in the quad before school just like every morning when sixteen-year-old Nathaniel Berhow opened fire, killing three people, including himself, a fourteen-year-old boy, and a fifteen-year-old girl. Civilians and neighbors of Nathaniel say he began to seem ‘troubled’ after the sudden death of his father two years prior to the shooting. Nathaniel was pronounced dead early on November 16th after shooting himself in the head. A dead father and a bullet to the brain still does not justify the murders of the two other young victims.

Violence and mental illness is obviously much deeper than then we perceive. But what makes someone tick? What would make a person want to take someone’s life? The following are words spoken by murderers on why they chose to kill:

“I just wanted to see how it felt to shoot Grandma.” – Edmund Kemper

“It wasn’t as dark and scary as it sounds. I had a lot of fun…killing somebody’s a funny experience.” – Albert Desalvo

“Murder is not about lust, and it’s not about violence. It’s about possession.” – Ted Bundy

“Yes, I do have remorse, but I’m not even sure myself whether it’s profound as it should be. I’ve always wondered myself why I don’t feel remorse.” – Jeffery Dahmer

“I actually think I may be possessed with demons; I was dropped on my head as a kid.” – Dennis Rader


While none of these give us an exact answer on why people kill, it gives you some insight on the twisted things that go on inside the brains of the mentally ill. As far as what’s “normal” and what’s not, the Mayo Clinic attempts to distinguish. Mental health is the overall wellness of how somebody’s brain functions. In order to keep good mental health you must maintain personal relationships, function in social settings, perform at work/school, learn at an acceptable level, participate in everyday activities, etc. To be mentally ill is more complicated than being mentally stable. Professionals diagnose mental illness based on medical history of mental illness, questions about your current concerns, recent events, past or present traumatic events, drug and alcohol abuse, past and current thoughts, and physical ailments. Mentally ill and mentally insane are different things though. Mental illness of a severe nature is a person not being to distinguish fantasy from reality, not being able to have self-control, long lasting sadness, excessive fear and paranoia and social withdrawal.

Thoughts of suicide and self-harm are typically associated with mental illness, such as depression of anxiety. As of 2018, 20-50% of teens ages 12-18 reported having anxiety and depression. (Disclaimer: if a person is struggling with anxiety or depression, it does not make them dangerous or a threat to others.) On the flip side, thoughts of wanting to kill, harm, torture, small animals, people, overall living things is mentally unstable–insane. If you are suspicious of a possible shooting, report it. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, here are some resources you can reach out to:

  • 1-800-273-8255 (Nation Suicide Prevention Hotline)
  • 951-686-4357 (Riverside County Helpline)
  • Text CNUSD to 741741
Print Friendly, PDF & Email