Friday, December 14, 2012

You Drive Me Crazy, Part 2

**Disclaimer: I am in no way defending the actions of these people.  Obviously what they did was wrong.  My intent here is to bring mental illness issues to light as they relate to violent crimes.**

Shortly after the Aurora, CO movie theater shootings back in July, I wrote this about the public and media assumption that perpetrators of violent crimes are inherently mentally ill, crazy, or just downright insane.

Go read that link before continuing.  Seriously.

Ok.  In light of the recent mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut in which 20 children, ages 5-10, and 7 adults, including the shooter, were killed, I feel the need to expound upon my previous points.

Mental illness is not a prerequisite characteristic for mass shooters/murderers.  Mass shooters can be sane or insane, as we shall see below.  (It also bears repeating for the umpteenth time that, as stated in the link above, people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crimes rather than perpetrators.)

In the interest of fairness to those who claim all mass shooters simply must be mentally ill, I decided to do a little calculation based on this info provided by Mother Jones.  The chart below is a watered-down version of MJ's info and indicates the location and date of each shooting, as well as whether any signs of mental illness were evident prior to the shooting.

Setting aside the fact that there are way too many events on this list to begin with, nearly 40% of these cases show that either the gunman did not present signs of mental illness or it was unclear (and, yes, the vast majority - if not all - were gunmen).

I will grant you that the majority of perpetrators on this list did, in fact, show signs of mental illness prior to their attack.  However, with the stigma attached to mental illness in the United States, treatment is not available or feasible for some - including, possibly, some of these attackers.

Let me give you an example.  Almost no one in my real life knows about my anxiety and depression.  I am lucky enough to have health insurance, expensive though it may be, but my copay to see a mental health professional (psychiatrist or psychologist) is 50% higher than my copay to see a "regular" doctor.  Although psychiatrists can prescribe medication (psychologists cannot), their services are not available in all areas, and often (in my experience) they will insist your regular doctor prescribe your meds.

This means I would have to pay the regular doctor, the psychiatrist/psychologist, and then pay for the meds I need.  All this treatment would cost over $100/month, and that is something I simply cannot afford.  So I skip the psychiatric treatment and just see my regular doctor and hope the meds work.  To sum up, not everyone has access to these services and not everyone who has access can afford it.


This is why it really grates my last nerve when people insist that mass shooters must be mentally ill.  Clearly, the evidence shown above proves that NOT ALL MASS SHOOTERS/MURDERERS ARE MENTALLY ILL.  And, in the cases where it is true, Americans must start considering society's responsibility to maintain both physical and mental health of all citizens for the benefit of the community at large.  How else can we keep tragedies such as this from happening?