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Teen accused of killing parents puts spotlight on mental illness

James Eric Davis Jr.

James Eric Davis Jr., accused of killing his parents inside a Central Michigan University dorm room, made his first court appearance on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. | Courtesy of Central Michigan University via AP

Over the years, I’ve talked to many parents who felt they had nowhere to turn to get help for a child with behavioral problems.

And while we complain loudly about the lack of grocery stores and other vital services in the black community, we aren’t nearly as vocal about the paucity of mental health facilities.

That would explain why so many of us miss the signs that may indicate a child is suffering from depression or other behavioral disorders.

The killing of James and Diva Davis, allegedly by their own son, is an inconceivable tragedy.

Like many of you, I just can’t comprehend how a boy that was once cuddled in the arms of his mother and perched on the shoulders of his father, could be capable of such an explosive act of violence.

James Eric Davis Jr., 19, is charged with the fatal shooting of his parents, James and Diva Davis.

Police allege that the teen killed the couple inside a Central Michigan University dorm room, using his father’s gun.

I can’t even imagine the scene.

The son is being held on a $1.25 million bond in Isabella County, Michigan. He was arraigned from his hospital room, handcuffed to a bed.

The family lives in Plainfield, and the elder Davis was a part-time police officer for the Bellwood Police Department.

Campus police say the son was seen on a surveillance video with the gun in the dorm’s parking lot.

That morning, the parents had picked up their son from a hospital where he had been taken the night before for an evaluation after police said he was acting erratically,” the Detroit News reported.

Police suspect some kind of drug use was involved.

Still, that doesn’t explain why this teen allegedly gunned down his parents.

The only thing that makes any sense is that this young man had some sort of mental breakdown.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we seem to be seeing more young people with serious mental health issues committing violent acts.

Three weeks ago, Nikolas Cruz, 19, gunned down 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The public defender described Cruz as a “deeply disturbed, emotionally broken” young man.

Last month, in Anderson, South Carolina, a 14-year-old shot his father three times and then took his father’s truck and drove to a nearby elementary school, where he fatally shot a 6-year-old.

In such instances, there are usually mental health issues in the shooter’s background.

“But while the stigma surrounding mental illness has been reduced, stigma and judgment still prevents African-Americans from seeking treatment for their mental illnesses,” according to an article published in “Psychology Today: Why African Americans avoid psychotherapy.”

Many also believe that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate even among family, according to the report.

Despite the horrific nature of the crime James Eric Davis Jr. is accused of committing, his siblings have a lot of compassion for him.

“I STILL LOVE MY BROTHER,” and “I want him safe, supported and prayed for just like my sister Alexis Davis and I,” said Russell Davis in a Facebook post, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“But the question has to be asked: What would cause somebody to kill their parents?” said Dr. Carl Bell, emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Bell is one of the leading advocates for doing something about fetal alcohol exposure.

“What would cause a person who is doing OK in life to have such poor control that they killed somebody they loved?” he asked.

“What person would go into their school and shoot up a bunch of 5-year-olds,” Bell continued, referring to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. “They may not be obviously mentally ill, but something is wrong.”

Obviously, guns have played a role in all of these homicides, and it is encouraging that so many young people are pushing for tougher gun laws.

But our children are growing up in environments that are more hostile than the environments many of us grew up in.

We need to figure out ways to help them better navigate today’s dangerous landscape.