05/30/2014 05:43 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2014

Making Sense of Senseless Violence

Since becoming National President of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology four years ago, I've reflected upon what's becoming a staggering and ceaseless procession of mass acts of violence across our nation. The latest incident was this past weekend in Isla Vista, CA -- just over 100 miles from our campus in downtown Los Angeles. Seven young people, including the alleged assailant, lost their lives while 13 others were wounded. While I haven't commented on every episode of violence, I do feel compelled to observe incidents that occur near or on school grounds and college campuses -- places that should be safe and fun as they help us develop the promise of our youth and those seeking to better their lives and those of others. Instead they've become all too often a setting of tragedy and a reminder of the fragility of life.

I've commented before that too often these events are referred to in the media and otherwise, as senseless acts. I don't believe this. I believe there is sense to be found in any action and behavior. Having personally grown up in a country like Ireland, where acts of violence and terrorism were commonplace and where people continuously struggled to find meaning and hope after such events, I was led to psychology and a profession dedicated to helping people become in tune with their actions and how their every word and behavior can impact others. From the reporting that I've read, the parents of the alleged shooter tried to take action, to seek an intervention upon reading his writings and watching his YouTube video. Unfortunately they were too late.

In too many cases, those serving the psychology profession are on the front lines of these events, of being there to help people make sense of what they observe and are feeling before a tragedy occurs. And if the worst does happen, we are there to support the communities to heal in the aftermath.

During the days ahead, I invite all of us to keep those touched by the events in Isla Vista in our thoughts and prayers. I have reached out to Chancellor Henry Yang at University of California Santa Barbara and to University of California President, Janet Napolitano, to pledge The Chicago School of Professional Psychology's support. I invite you to reflect on this episode, think about what we can learn from its lessons to be better educators and clinicians, to be more prepared to make sense out of the senseless, and to always do our part to ease the pain from such tragic events.

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