Perspective on what could be causing recent violence in Albuquerque

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A University of New Mexico associate professor of psychiatry gave KOB 4 perspective on what could be causing some of the recent violence, and short fuses, in Albuquerque.

Police said a shooting at a busy movie theater that left a man dead happened during an argument over seats. Officers reported a man shot two people randomly in the parking lot of a popular restaurant, and a week ago police said a woman shot another woman whose car she was trying to steal in a busy mall parking lot.

Dr. Kristina Sowar said understanding the psychology behind actions like those is an important topic.

She said many people have been feeling more stressed in the last few years, especially since the COVID pandemic, and that can be one cause of this behavior.

“As can things like having another mental health condition, so having depression, having anxiety, having had a head injury, having a substance use history,” she said. “We do see many people who are struggling more with irritability, impulse regulation, and sometimes the aggressive behavior that comes about with that.”

Dr. Sowar said short fuses can show that people need improvement in conflict resolution.

“Especially if people aren’t raised in environments where that’s encouraged, it can be an area of deficit for them that they just don’t learn and it continues to persist as a challenge when they get older,” she said.

She said experiencing trauma as a kid can lead to more of these problems as an adult. She noted that trauma is more common in New Mexico.

Dr. Sowar said there can be a lack of value in human life and people feel like they don’t have a connection to others.

Some of the recent violence in Albuquerque has been among teenagers. Wednesday police said two teens got into a struggle over a gun. A 15-year-old boy was shot and a 13-year-old boy was stabbed.

Dr. Sowar said teenagers are seeing an increase in mental health issues across the country in the last few years. The covid pandemic was particularly tough.

“The rates of depression and PTSD and anxiety in a lot of teenagers, the kind of things they’ve been exposed to, things that maybe have been normalized for them that weren’t normalized before,” she said. “Some of the cumulative stress, trauma loads on the population, and the mix of teenagers plus weapons, unfortunately, being a tough combo.”

Dr. Sowar said if a person is able to speak with a loved one who may be struggling, just having a conversation can be helpful. Being willing to ask questions, like how they’re doing, and saying they’re concerned is important.

“We think just opening the door in a space where hopefully there’s some trust and ability to have a conversation, that that can be an important start, especially for young people,” she said.

People can also encourage a loved one to get professional help, like therapy.