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Violence Triggers Stress, Anxiety

March 18, 1993

Fear of violence has become so strong that many children can't even walk to school without worrying, officials say.

"Killings (like the recent slayings at Fairfax and Reseda High Schools) cause anxiety because they are out of the students' control. They don't know when it's going to strike," says Richard Lieberman, a school psychologist and a consultant in the LAUSD's Suicide Prevention Unit.

"Many kids deal with this on way to school in the morning. So you've got kids arriving at school at 8 a.m. thinking they've won a major victory."

In addition, violence can increase stress and the risk of suicide, now the second leading cause of death in people ages 10 to 19.

Repeated personal or family experiences with violence can lead to a fatalistic attitude, Lieberman says. "Many students feel they won't live to be 21. They say, 'Eventually it's going to catch up with me anyway.'

"This attitude leads them down a continuum of self-destructive behavior. A kid who would ditch a class and smoke an occasional joint of pot may now be truant and get behind the wheel of a car under the influence of alcohol."

"A lot of people think that the problem is substance abuse. . . . Kids do drugs to medicate themselves from pain."

The vast majority of kids believe that it's wrong to kill, Lieberman says. "They enjoy respect and respect other kids."

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