Originally published Saturday, May 19, 2018 at 06:05a.m.

One of the greatest pains my heart has ever known is to see a child who has lost all hope. In desperate moments, when they feel utterly alone and worthless, some choose to end life. Sadly, sometimes the weight of their loneliness and despair is mingled with rage, so the lives they end may not just be their own.

Since Columbine, school and law enforcement officials throughout the country have sought to protect students by attempting to identify potential gunmen. They look for boys who fit the profile — students who are outcasts, withdrawn, victims of repeated incidents of bullying, children who do not have the social skills to fight back or stand up for themselves in an appropriate manner. Unfortunately, many adolescents fit this profile and the very act of singling out these individuals can perpetuate their feelings of not belonging and not fitting in.

This strategy of profiling feels like a witch-hunt that can create witches. Instead of searching for problem children, we need to find ways to help children with their problems.

I don’t have the answer, but perhaps these two thoughts could be part of the solution.

One: Our young people need to know they have a support system, someone they can turn to for protection and comfort when they feel victimized. Ideally, this system should include parents, church leaders, a favorite teacher and even their peers.

Two: All of our children need to be taught to look out for one another. There must be a change in America’s school and social media environments that bring greater awareness of the pain that is inflicted when intolerance and cruelty are allowed to go unchecked.

Both of these ideas can be summed up in one simple word, compassion.

Obviously all children are not going to be compassionate, but all it takes is one person to stand up and say,

“Hey, leave him alone.” This one voice can be a voice of comfort in the life of a troubled young person who believes nobody cares.

I know many parents diligently teach their children not to tease or bully others, but compassion demands action, real love requires risk. Ask your children and grandchildren to speak up against cruelty when they see it at school or on social media. Ask them to be that one voice.

Richard Haddad is News & Digital Content Director for Western News&Info, Inc., the parent company for Prescott Newspapers, Inc.