One-third of high school students have heard somebody say he or she will One-third of high school students have heard somebody say he or she will

Reaching Out to Broken Families Can Make a World of Difference

Hands reaching for each otherOne-third of high school students have heard somebody say he or she will kill someone. One-seventh of high school students seriously considered committing suicide. Eighty percent of teen pregnancies are unintended. Forty-three percent of teens have been bullied online. One out of every 200 girls aged 13 to 19 is cutting herself. Seventy-five percent of students experimented with not only alcohol and tobacco but hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine, and 45% of those students are actively using, sometimes even on school grounds.1

What do these statistics have to do with the brothers Tsarnaev, who were accused of the Boston Marathon bombings? Or, for that matter, with Adam Lanza, the Connecticut school shooter? Or the other homegrown radicals and mass murderers our country has witnessed?


On April 25, The Wall Street Journal featured an op-ed by Judith Miller, who made the assertion that had the Tsarnaevs attempted to bomb New York City, it would have been prevented. New York has a counterterrorism program which flags situations that can lead to radicalization—and the breakup of the family in 2010 is one such flag.

The April 27 WSJ adds a seemingly small fact about this family that has enormous meaning. Last June, the boys’ mother shoplifted from a Lord & Taylor department store. She admitted to police that she had been feeling depressed and wanted to give dresses to her daughters as gifts. The seven dresses were worth $1,624.

In contrast to this family, an op-ed piece in the same April 27 paper, written by another immigrant from Chechnya, Kenan Trebincevic, told of how he, his older brother, and their entire family were welcomed when they arrived in this country and were constantly given a helping hand by people here. From transportation to school to free orthodontia, people in the community smoothed the way for this family. As a consequence, they feel only gratitude to America.

Research shows that family breakup or violence, parental depression, feeling alienated, and social-skills deficits are risk factors for depression. They are also risk factors for violence, according to the reports above and those regarding Adam Lanza.

What are the implications of this information?

  • In our communities, we must reach out to families that need a helping hand; we can’t afford to mind our own business. Whether such people are hurting because they are immigrants or because they are newly single or because a parent is fighting overseas, each of us must take responsibility to show kindness and assist in any way we can.
  • If we find ourselves in over our heads in handling life or our children, it is not the time to be shy or allow our egos to stand in the way of asking for help. What’s more, if the help we seek turns out to be unhelpful, it would be a mistake to quit the search; we must continue until we find the kind of help that makes a difference.
  • As citizens, we must demand more family counseling in our schools at all age levels so that counselors’ presence in schools becomes routine. In this way, people will feel less inhibition taking advantage of counseling and it will lose any stigma it might still have.
  • We must consider family counseling to be an investment in the health and safety of our loved ones and utilize it in our communities if it is not available in school. We should never again look at it as a luxury, because that is one thing recent news makes clear—it is not.


1. Video:

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Deb Hirschhorn, PhD, Relationships and Marriage Topic Expert Contributor

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  • GoldRoof

    May 2nd, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    I’m all for looking out for each other as a community.But is that gonna prevent terrorism?not at all.while its always a good thing to be nice and welcoming to those around you these people are not normal.its not like caring for them is gonna make them care for you.the tiger is not gonna spare you just because you are a vegan!

  • adrienne

    May 2nd, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    I think that there are a lot of times where we want to say and do the right thing for someone in need but you just don’t know how to do it because you are afriad of embarassing them or hurting their feelings or even makiing them angry! I know that this is the right thing to do but then you don’t want someone to feel like you are getting into their business when it is not welcome. I am more than happy to help someone in need, but I guess I have always assumed that if someone needs something that it is better for them to come to me because then there is not the chance to worry about miscommunication or that I will do something that will offend them. I realize that there are some people who would never ask for help but that just seems like it would be the best way to handle those instances.

  • Liz

    May 2nd, 2013 at 11:09 PM

    A lot of times a little support and help can go a long way. Crime increases when the community connection deteriorates. And with almost zero contact between members of a community now, it not only becomes disconnected but there is also a sense of me against the world which can easily create hatred in people’s minds.

  • Lizz

    May 3rd, 2013 at 3:56 AM

    There are many many families who need help but they are far too proud to ask.

    I think that you would be surprised how humble and appreciative they would be if you could in some way offer to help them.

    They don’t want to ask, but many are more than willing to accept when the offer is sincere.

  • chris

    May 4th, 2013 at 5:05 AM

    I hope that this isn’t implying that these brothers did what they did because their family broke up.

    These are two grown men who just needed to get over that? Families split all the time but do we all go around killing and maiming innocent men women and children?

  • Sally High

    May 15th, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    Yes we must consider the importance of family therapy and the benefits to helping reach those in need. We can not be blind to the fact that ongoing education and awareness must be provided to our families, in the school system and as a society as a whole. Lets ban together and assist those in need of family therapy to assist them in developing the skill set and ongoing insight into the unification and strengthening of our families in need.

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