‘It doesn’t surprise me’: Mental health decline in kids potential reason for increase in violence

HOUSTON – The death of a 17-year-old girl in Cypress Meadow subdivision in west Harris County marks at least the third time a teenager has been accused of killing another teen in the last few months.

The suspect in the case is the girl’s twin brother.

READ: 17-year-old boy accused of stabbing his twin sister to death in west Harris County, sheriff says

In general, homicides are on the rise in Houston but within families and among siblings it is still considered rare.

“It shocks me, it disheartens me, but it doesn’t surprise me,” said Dr. Asim Shah, Baylor College of Medicine professor and executive vice chair of the department of psychiatry.

He said society is not doing enough to reach out and improve the mental health of young people.

“There could be one starting point where you can stop something like that. If there is a sibling rivalry at home, parents may not stop it in the beginning and then it escalates,” Shah said.

He explained small rivalries and arguments need to be addressed early on -- if not addressed, he predicts, society will continue to see rising cases of bullying, suicides and murder

Why is it happening now?

A number of societal changes could be to blame in the rise of violence or a combination of a few things, according to Shah.

“People are together, people are frustrated, they argue, they fight … social injustice. Last year, we saw a lot of things related to that … in some areas they were cutting police,” Dr. Shah said as he pointed to a few examples.

Plus, in the last year and a half, teens have been cut off from a lot of stress outlets that normal development requires: socializing at malls, at school, in sports, prom, movies, even parks -- closed due to COVID.

These closures might have hurt young people more than any other age group.

“Everything they were doing was almost gone, especially last year,” Dr. Shah said.

Here are some warning signs Dr Shah says can indicate a teen is in trouble:

- They’re isolating

- They’re spending a lot of money (potentially on drugs or alcohol)

- They’re staying out late or you don’t know who they’re with

- Making statements about harming themselves or someone else on social media

- You know they have access to resources that can hurt someone (like a weapon)

What can be done about it

Get help. It might be uncomfortable but it’s as serious as saying bomb on an airplane -- you never assume the person is joking.

READ: 17-year-old faces capital murder charge after Houston police officer’s 14-year-old son fatally shot in Kingwood

READ: Teen accused of killing another teen at high school graduation party out on bond