Nikolas Cruz: Could Mental Health Treatment Have Helped?

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Nikolas Cruz: Could Mental Health Treatment Have Helped?

Could mental health treatment have helped Florida school shooter, Nikolas Cruz? It’s a big question.

“Students and neighbors traded stories of their experiences with Nikolas Cruz and wondered if anything could have been done,” reports an article in the New York Times that explores how Cruz showed “every red flag” before opening fire on a Florida high school on Valentine’s Day, 2018. He killed 17 people before sliding away from the scene only to be captured an hour later.

The question is perhaps one of the most important starting questions to ask: could anything have been done to prevent this tragedy? Could anything have been done to help Cruz, whose suffering led him to this horrific act?

Nikolas Cruz and His Mental Health and Anger Problems

Evidence is surfacing that Nikolas Cruz needed mental health help. Much is still protected by HIPPA laws, but we do know that he is described as having had “emotional problems” since childhood, a quick temper and anger problems that often led to property destruction, odd behavior toward other students in school, and expulsion from the school he returned to on Valentine’s Day. The expulsion is purported to be related to fighting and/or carrying a knife in school. It is reported, too, that Cruz did receive mental health treatment at one point but stopped his treatment for reasons still unknown.

Would Cruz have committed mass murder if he had continued treatment? Here is what researchers know:

  • There is a direct relationship between anger problems and violence (Huffington Post);
  • Only about four percent of violence is caused by mental illness (American Psychological Association);
  • Anger is a problem for people with and without mental illness. Anger can be, but isn’t always, a component of different mental illnesses and personality disorders, including bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorders, and more. Also, many people with anger issues do not have a mental illness;
  • Anger problems in adolescence are complex and need professional intervention (PsychGuides)

Nikolas Cruz evidently struggled with anger and emotional problems that were possibly a component of other mental health problems. The answer to the question, “Could anything have been done?” to help Cruz and his victims, is yes. Yes, things could have been done, although we can’t say with certainty what the ultimate outcome would have been.

Receiving, and continuing to attend, mental health treatment is of utmost importance to everyone. If you are experiencing mental heath struggles, it is okay to reach out for help. If you see someone struggling, speak up. Talk to him or her, or seek the help of local mental health agencies.

Mental illness can be treated. Anger issues can be treated. That is important for all of us to remember.

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APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2018, February 20). Nikolas Cruz: Could Mental Health Treatment Have Helped?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 24 from

Last Updated: February 22, 2018

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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