Umpqua: The Mental Illness Panacea as it Relates to Gun Violence

In the wake of another school shooting, people are choosing their bandwagons of blame and as usual, the top two contenders are “gun control” and “mental illness.”

To add some spice, this time, there is the added element of the possibility that the shooter targeted Christians that has the small but vocal segment of the Christian population already on the “persecution” train, practically frothing at the mouth.  But as much as they bug me, today I want to (once again) address the idea of mental illness as the “cause” of this scourge of school violence. Initially, I was going to let my last article speak for my feelings about this subject.  After all, it is very emotionally exhausting thinking about this kind of heavy stuff.  I’m sure you know what I mean.  Being inundated with awful news all the time takes its toll on a person.  But in the comments and discussion (hee hee…”discussion”) section of an article this morning, I came across some comments I felt needed engaging. (Sadly, this happens to me way too much and sometimes I should “engage” less with some of the more cretinous on the internet.)  But these comments weren’t too awful.

To begin with, I really recommend the article  to which I refer to…well, anyone.  It is a well thought out and informative view on the buzz word of “mental illness” in regards to gun violence.

One comment on the above article was actually valid and the others were typical ignorant (as in, underinformed) opinions from people who likely have never experienced real mental illness.

One commenter, claiming to be a retired mental health director, takes issue with the semantics of the article’s claim that “the mentally ill are 60 to 120 percent more likely than the average person to be the victims of violent crime rather than the perpetrators.”

His main point: There is not “The Mentally Ill.”  He states:

We are a diverse demographic, no broad statements can be
made about us.

We earn to the millions, hold every university degree, and
every professional, white, and blue collar job.

I agree. There is no “the” mentally ill, because speaking strictly using the DSM criteria, people with eating disorders would be categorized as “mentally ill” along with a host of other people suffering from afflictions that would have NO causative connection with violence. I myself am “mentally ill,” having suffered with OCD since I was a young child. There seems to be some misconception that because someone shoots up a place or kills someone else, they “MUST be mentally ill.” While I understand the desire to believe there is some answer or some easy way to detect and thus avert crimes like the Oregon school shooting or Newtown, it is a disservice to mentally ill people everywhere.

In a study of crimes committed by people with serious mental disorders, only 7.5 percent were directly related to symptoms of mental illness, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

Furthermore the idea that it’s a simple correlation of mental illness ——> gun violence ignores the very big social component to these crimes and the reality that it doesn’t always take much for a “responsible gun owner” to become a criminal. It’s not black and white. The fact that an abused woman is five times more likely to be killed by her abuser if he owns a gun seems to support the idea that you can’t always tell by screening who would or would not become a murderer.  (To stave off the argument that domestic abusers already are criminals, do you think a psych exam or questionnaire could suss that out with enough accuracy to prevent murders or family annihilation?)
As I mentioned to the commenter, I do find the statement in the original article, “gun-owning, angry, paranoid white men,” to be very telling, because these “type” of people seem to be the ones screaming most loudly, to media and anyone else who will listen, for their “gun rights.”  So either facts don’t work in their favor here or the idea that you can predict who will be a mass shooter by a “type” is flawed.  You decide.

Moving on…

Next come the typical comments from ignorant people about medication for mental illness.  They run the gamut from suggesting that people who are mentally ill don’t really “need” medicine to the idea that maybe some kids just need a stern talking to from Daddy or the church pastor.

Well, yes…but that has nothing to do with mental illness.  We’re not talking about under-disciplined little shits who need a whooping or time out.  Although those type of self-indulgent, spoiled, and understimulated kids could conceiveably grow up to be disgruntled or angry adults.

Then there is the more ridiculous idea that drugs typically prescribed for many types of mental illness can actual cause a change in personality sufficient to cause a mass murder spree…

I’ll wait here until you stop laughing…

It’s ridiculous.  For one thing, refer to the above APA findings-  7.5 percent.

Secondly, while I am sure that overmedication has become an issue in our society, and many people think they suffer from any number of physical or mental maladies  (gluten free Prozac for everyone!) there are REAL people out there with these conditions, who are helped by medicines. I myself have suffered with OCD since childhood. Real OCD, not the , “ohh, I like things super clean at my house” self-diagnosed type.

One commenter mentioned that too much in psychiatric treatment with medication is trial and error.  To an extent, I’d give him that.  For instance, after years of trying different meds for efficacy, reduction of side effects, or safety during pregnancy, I have finally come upon one that works for me. When I speak to others with anxiety issues (because OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder) they often tell me they tried the med I am on and didn’t like it or it didn’t work.

Okay, but to address his idea of people as guinea pigs for psychotrophic drugs, let’s put this in perspective.  All people can’t tolerate all anti-biotics or all pain relievers.  People have different chemistries and sensitivities and doctors can’t always say why.  But you’d still likely take meds your family doctor gives you for a physical issue.  Is he using you as a guinea pig? The same idea goes for people needing psychotrophic drugs; different drugs affect people differently.
A commenter questioned the validity of the “theory” of chemical imbalance.  That actually has been proven, but even before there was quantifiable data to support the idea of the chemical imbalance, the theory was essentially proved, ipso facto that SSRIs work for depression and anxiety. SSRI’s are not your gran-mammas little helpers of yesteryear. They aren’t opiods, benzodiazapines, or anti-manics, so they don’t just “blunt” peoples’ moods or make their feelings tolerable; SSRI’s modify the re-uptake of neurotransmitters.

You would not tell a diabetic to go get a good stern talk from their Daddy because it wouldn’t help. Likewise, I never could “pray away” my anxiety and obsessions.  But these common misconceptions add to the stigma of mental illness in today’s society.

To conclude, aside from media coverage turning a killer into a celebrity and giving any disgruntled jerk with a gun a platform, there is no consistent answer for shootings like Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Newtown, the SC church shooter.  The details of the shooters all vary in age, agenda, mental state, social ties.  There is no single diagnosis to be shared between them, so to point a finger at mental illness as the “reason” for these tragedies is, well, a bit irresponsible, in my opinion.  Thanks for bearing with me.

AS always, feel free to comment, but especially given the sensitive nature of this topic, please be courteous.

Peace.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/10/03/us/how-mass-shooters-got-their-guns.html

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IN which I pontificate about social activism and crabby people…

I’m tired of reading these dumb arguments. Below is a meme about the people upset about Cecil the Lion’s murder, and asking why people aren’t upset about black people being killed every day.  Really it’s the same old song and dance.  Every time people express outrage or grief about something, other people come out in droves to bitch about those people and how their priorities are all wrong…or whatever.  They’re like…grief trolls or something.  I never realized until I spent so much time on social media that “caring about something” had to be so mutually exclusive to “caring about anything else.”  Apparently, we as human beings can only care about one thing at a time, I guess.  But let’s address this particular meme for a second.
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Firstly, the above argument will fall on many a deaf ear simply because many people tend to reserve a different place of outrage for people killing innocent animals. Generally speaking, with a few exceptions, most animal aggression is out of resource guarding instinct or fear driven.  There is little malice aforethought.  You may not agree with that logic, but that’s how it shakes out. Secondly, and more specific to the contents of this meme, the 2013 FBI Uniform Crime Report, a compilation of annual crime statistics, also shows 83 percent of white victims were killed by white offenders; 90 percent of black victims were killed by black offenders. (source 1, 2)
So, playing Devil’s advocate… Do “black lives” only matter when a white person kills them? Given the ever-growing diversity in the country, when interracial crime occurs, does the crime itself or the resulting outcome of the justice system always have to be race related? How about All Lives Matter?
If you say Black Lives Matter, does that mean the rest do not?
Of course not.  *( I am not denying the existence of racism, but I do object to the significant amount of race-baiting done in politics and the media.  I only mention race at all because it is the subject of this particular meme…)
In this case, because Cecil’s life mattered, does that mean we don’t care about people killed every day, be they black, white, civilian, military, abortion, (or whatever else is a hot button issue right for someone?? )
No one can be pissed about everything, all the time; it takes a lot of energy to sustain that level of emotional involvement. Personally speaking,  the emotional toll of even seeing all the bad news online is overwhelming to me at times. Sometimes I just want to shut the computer for a few weeks… There are so many injustices in the world, why do we have to defend our outrage, give reasons why we choose our causes?  How many of these grief trolls on social media, denigrating the people who cared about the lion, doing any more for their own causes than sitting online being critical slactivists?? How about instead of fighting and criticizing one another for which cause we choose to embrace, we focus on improving the circumstances of any given cause?  Anyhow, that’s my cathartic ramble for the day.
Peace.
PS: (Also none of the people/demographics mentioned above were ever hunted by a lion with bait and a gun. Just sayin’.)

Riot this

Most of you are aware of the riots going on in Baltimore right now. Supposedly it is because of that poor fellow who died in police custody.  That shouldn’t have gone down the way it did. But what is going on now- this is not about that man who died in custody. It shouldn’t have happened… But this is nothing more than cruddy people taking advantage of a situation to try to get away with shit behavior and get free shit. They figure if everyone is doing it, they have safety in numbers.  Really, how are your free Slim Jims and stolen pharmacy drugs going to get “justice for Freddie Gray?”  The basis of this riot in supposedly seated in race inequality, the media and the deliberately ignorant happily perpetuating the hate by shamelessly race baiting with inflammatory headlines and ignorant memes.  I’m not saying race inequality does not exist, but that’s not what all this chaos is about.

Not that long ago, there was a big riot in KY (mostly white people, guys), after of all things, a fucking (sports) game! Obviously, in regards to the Baltimore riot and the death of Mr. Gray, race is being thrown around (again) a lot by all sides.  But to me, the Kentucky riot is just further support for the fact that when it comes to behavior like this, race is not the issue.  Watch some of the videos circulating.  There were  peaceful protesters initially, but what you see in common in both the KY and MD incidents has nothing to do with race.  It’s nothing but a mob of opportunistic scavengers.

And to those people I say:

U MAD, BRO?

U MAD, BRO?

You either get it or you don’t.  That’s it.  I’m out.

The Cycle (IV): Kintsukuroi

I’m going make this week’s prompt another short story in the same series.  You may find all the previous installments under the title “The Cycle,” with a theme and number, in the Hive Index.   I’ve been lazy about my fiction, and lately a reader has asked me about this story series, so…here goes. 

20130606-141205

The Cycle (IV):  Kintsukuroi

Angela had spent the whole weekend with her husband’s journal.  That journal and not much else.  She took the phone off the hook.  She didn’t eat.  Her path through house consisted of a truncated and zagging path between the armchair by the cold fireplace, the refrigerator where she kept multiple bottles of Evian, and the bathroom on the first floor.  It had been hard enough to sleep in the bed her and her husband had shared, ever since his crimes were laid bare…literally.  After she found the journal and read the first few entries, Angela gave over the idea of sleep completely.  Every time she closed her eyes, a fusillade of gruesome images kept her from achieving anywhere near the peace of mind required to relax into sleep.  Most of the images were montages conjured by her own mind– the few details the detective had shared with her from the crime reports , and the faces of the women as they had been before her husband had “fixed” them.  With these details, and the sickly ambiguous writing in her husband’s journal, prose that were somehow equal parts self-important, saccharin, and terrifying, Angela tortured herself with vivid scenarios of what had happened to each of the women.  In these scenarios, she recognized her husband’s face, his handsome face, but his eyes burned with the light of insanity, practically glowing, like the eyes of a comic book demon.

That he thought of these women, his victims, as finished products– as his art– was sickening.  That he thought he was “fixing” them, making them better somehow, like a craftsman repairing a piece of broken pottery with powdered gold, was untenable.   But his vanity and the truth of his hedonistic pursuits were revealed by the fact that all of the women had similar characteristics.  Petite, pale blonde hair, tiny aristocratic nose…   Fragile looking, yet with an undefinable verve.  Like a flower.

Like her sister.

Jill.  It was impossible to tell if the obsession had started with her, or ended with her.  Were all his victims merely substitutes, or were they practice for his endgame?

Or had Jill’s disappearance merely been a result of her conveniently fitting his ideal victim type?  No.  There she was, fooling herself again.  At the very least, he knew who Jill was when she had taken her.  She figured in to all of this somehow.

All of these horrid images and ideas chased one another through her mind, keeping her restless and nauseous, and wearing at her sanity like an angry dog wearing a groove in the ground at the end of its leash.

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G*ddammit, just STOP it already!

The above title could refer either to my need to check comments and notifications on Huffington Post, (where some moron has inevitably said something too dumb to ignore, or purposely picked a fight with me) OR it could, and DOES, refer to how very fucking tired I am of seeing all the race (and sex) hate online.  I sometimes wish I could go back in time to when I did not have constant internet access, and hence, was not nearly as aware of all the horrible things going on in the world, and subsequently, the horribly misguided and moronic responses of scared and ignorant people.  I’ll admit, I’m scared too.  I have a child, and my fear for her safety and happiness is all encompassing; no matter how vigilant you are, you can not protect against the senseless and amoral.

So, I’m scared.  But I’m also pissed!  I need to get off Facebook and the internet news for a while, because if I see one more person blame Obama for all the woes in this country and then support it with inaccurate “factoids” they picked up somewhere I might just explode.  If I see one more forwarded article posted by one of my Facebook friends whining about “why does Trayvon get all this attention but black on white crime goes unobserved?” I might just throat punch someone.

I have noticed an increase in my own political posts and replies in an attempt to combat all the rampant ignorance going around, and frankly, to some people, I am probably becoming one of those political posters that annoy me!!!  I don’t want to be that person… because it doesn’t do any good anyway.  It seems like most people either agree with your views or disagree.  If they agree, you haven’t really “enlightened” anyone.  And it feels like most people that disagree are loath to make room in their personal philosophies to consider any new info on the topic.

But back to the race thing, which is what today’s post is about… I ask you… I BEG you…

[Some**] black people… please stop threatening to riot when shit doesn’t go your way.  It doesn’t do anything to help your cause.  It’s basically like trying to bully people into action by threatening violence.

[Some**] white people… please stop playing the whole “reverse” racism card.  You are not helping “spread awareness” about the perceived plight of white people.  You just sound like a toddler whining, “it’s not faaaair…”

It’s bad enough there are still people who are comfortable being openly racist, basically acting like a bunch of uneducated hillbillies, but the rest of us, who think we’re “fighting for the underdog” or standing up for our rights are not helping.  Some people claim Obama is trying to divide the races.  Let me tell you, he doesn’t need to.  We do it all on our own.  And to me, the barely veiled racism of today is in some ways just as bad as the racism of yesteryear.  Passive aggressive, misguided…

Yes, both sides (and believe it or not, there are more races in America now besides black and white) are still seeing instances of inequality.  Both sides have victims.  Both sides have perpetrators.  The problem is not black and white.  When the race of a perpetrator is mentioned in the title of an article, unless there is specific evidence the crime was racially motivated, to me that’s a red flag.  That’s propagating hate.  And then if you go to the comments section of just about any news outlet online, someone will inevitably find a way to dredge up and grandstand on their particular beliefs, whether said beliefs have anything to do with the article or not.

So if you want to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem, for the love of God, or whoever, just stop with the “righteous indignation” and forwarded crap about race crimes…on both sides!!!  Isn’t people killing people bad enough???

okay...end rant...have to go mop up my brains...

okay…end rant…have to go mop up my brains…

(ps…and a note to myself…  JUST STOP ALREADY! Stop letting morons you don’t even know piss you off.  Stop posting political stuff on Facebook or being bated by others’ political posts. Slactivism is not activism, so.  Just.  Stop.)

**If it’s not already obvious, I qualify these statements with the word “some,” because I would never dream of impugning a whole group of people based on the actions of only some.  However, it’s apparent to me that the number of people spouting the nonsense have enough of a voice that they are still causing trouble.

Hairy Pits and Stinky Breath: A Love Story

I love fiction.  Love to be immersed in a good book…or book series.  Love movies, especially horror films. I’m one of those people that will suspend disbelief over things like dinosaurs jumping through rifts in time, and massive pandemics killing off entire populations…

And yet I can’t quite seem to get through a show without nitpicking the little things.  I think about things that a lot of people either don’t consider, or choose not to consider.

Like, I love a good period piece just like most other people.  I totally got sucked into Game of Thrones, along with everyone else…

And yet those steamy and/or romantic sex scenes…

GOTclinch

Yeah, those…  All I can think of is how not only did hardly anyone have perfect, white teeth like they do in these shows, without modern dental care, most people were likely missing teeth, and what teeth they had were probably half rotten, and all bucked and twisted.  And can you imagine what their breath would be like?  I guess they had to ignore such things if they wanted to, you know, propagate the species.  But I’m betting there weren’t nearly so many passionate kisses or face-to-face close embraces as the writers of this type of story like to imagine.

250px-MaterCars

And if I’m lyin’, I’m cryin’!

I mean, I don’t know specifically what era Game of Thrones is set in, however if one were to infer anything from the clothing styles, type of ruling party, and customs, it could likely be anywhere between the 14th and 18th centuries.  Personal hygiene likely left a lot to be desired back then.  Apparently, people in medieval times actually did bathe quite often, and it wasn’t until the renaissance that people began to fear that frequent bathing might be “unhealthy.”  Often, only visible body parts were washed, and the remaining “odors” from infrequently bathed people were covered by perfumes and the like.  Now…without being too vulgar, you can just imagine which parts went unwashed.  And then we’re supposed to believe in hot, steamy, romantic sex???

But let’s set that aside for a moment.  Let’s focus on the visual aspect of hygiene.  We are always being told that “men are visual” creatures when it comes to sex, but I’d wager both women and men take for granted some of the anachronistic hygiene practices seen in most period pieces.  Like shaving.

Aside from dictates written by the Prophet Muhammad regarding  hygiene and codes of conduct for those of Muslim faith, historically speaking, cosmetic shaving/hair removal was not a widespread practice, and made its way to the West around 1915. (source)

Take these hot chicks for example;  I’m not picking on GOT specifically (hey, even I would probably bang Daenerys Targaryen); it just happens to suit my purposes as far as examples go.  I mean, people seem to be naked a lot in this particular period piece.

"I've got this unidentifiable lump right...here..."

“I’ve got this unidentifiable lump right…here.  DO you think it’s an ingrown hair?”

They’d likely have looked more like…

this :

(wikipedia)

(wikipedia)

TO be fair, this isn’t the only type of stuff I nitpick.  Having at least a small knowledge of criminal justice, I love  to pick apart police procedural dramas.  One of the biggest pieces of crap almost all of them try to sell is the idea that one small team personally goes through every step of crime solving, from collecting their own evidence, processing said evidence in their own lab, conducting often aggressive interviews with suspects and witnesses, and finally solving the crime and (in some cases) participating in the prosecution.

Likely I don’t have to tell most of you that not only is this not the case, it’s not really even feasible, let alone in the unusually short time span which these TV detectives clear their cases (a few days.)  Oh well.  I suppose if they portrayed it at the snail’s pace which some murder cases plod along, they’d lose viewers to comatose boredom.  Also, if they included the real number of people it likely takes to solve most crimes, viewers would not be able to keep track with, or more importantly, “bond” with the characters.  And that would never do since a lot of TV shows are successful, I would wager, because of the viewers’ attachments to certain characters.  So I just have to suspend my disbelief.  And it’s really not that big of a deal for me.  As I may have mentioned before. I really don’t ask for much when it comes to “entertainment” TV or films.  I just want to be immersed in a different kind of place for a short period of time and be…well, entertained.

So, what are some of your pet peeves when it comes to TV inaccuracies?

“She must have been beautiful…”

She must have been beautiful…  At the beginning of the first episode of the French cop drama, Engrenages (it means gears or cogs, but the title is translated to Spiral for US viewing,) a nude young woman is found in a dumpster, her face savagely beaten and mutilated.   Within the first few minutes of the show, when told by one of the investigators that the victim’s face was smashed, the Prosecutor replies, “She must have been beautiful.”

The first time I read this (the show is subtitled,) it gave me pause.  What?  Was something lost in translation, or was this ham-fisted remark somehow considered a normal observation in the context of a foreign investigation?

A few mere minutes later he offers, “She was killed because she was beautiful.  Hence the ferocity.”

I thought…Oooo-kaaay.  That makes a little more sense.  Maybe this is a serial killer and the Prosecutor is familiar with his MO.

But this turns out not to be the case either… and yet people throughout the show continue to remark on the victim’s beauty.  One cop goes to his prostitute informant (who he apparently also likely beds and occasionally scores coke from) to see if she has heard anything that might help identify the victim.

Prostitute: Are you sure she was a prostitute?

Cop: No, she was a nun.

Prostitute:*laughs* You’re right.  If she wasn’t in the game it’s odd.  Especially the mutilation stuff.

So now it has been inferred not only that her beauty somehow precipitated her murder, but that being the victim of a horrific mutilation makes much more sense if you happen to be a working girl.  Having studied violent crime, I will allow that being a prostitute is considered to be a high risk factor in terms of one’s chances of becoming the victim of a violent crime.  There is a real correlation there.

However, in the general public’s view, (and regrettably, sometimes in law enforcement) there is also an implied and sometimes spoken assertion that a sex worker killed because of or during the course of her work somehow deserves her fate.  The fact that the prostitute/informant in this particular show would consider the mutilation of the victim “odd” if she wasn’t a sex worker seems downright inappropriate.  Again, is it simply that something has been lost in the translation from the original French dialogue?  Or maybe it is a calculated tactic by the script writers to infer how many women in “the game” feel, how they view their own self-worth?  Or maybe it’s exactly what it sounds like; an ignorant and flawed assumption that may be indicative a a larger problem, the way people view female victims of violent crimes?

I seem to remember the coroner in the autopsy scene similarly remarking on the savagery of the victim’s injuries and also linking it to her beauty.  He claims the attack to her face was postmortem and methodical.  He also posits that it was done not to hinder identification of the victim (as her hands and fingertips were left undamaged,) but rather out of some sort of spite for alleged beauty.

Again with the beauty?   

And then again, almost exactly halfway through this first episode, the coke snorting cop tells his colleagues that the neighbor claimed a certain person of interest was a “real beauty”, and that he would “let them know” when he saw her.

What?!  Why does this keep coming up?  I’d understand if they had some specific reason to believe in this situation that the victim’s beauty was an emotional catalyst for suspect, IF they had any information that backed up that theory– previous crimes possibly committed by the same offender, evidence collected from crimes scenes, a criminal profile… A person can be driven to fatal violence by many things.  Their victim may be the actual focus of their rage or they may be no more than a convenient surrogate, chosen for reasons that have nothing to do with aesthetics.  Furthermore, the mutilation of the face, especially done postmortem, could also be indicative of the perpetrator’s desire to “erase” the victim’s identity, not from a literal standpoint, but from an emotional perspective.  A person’s face, specifically their eyes, are often considered to be symbolic of their essence, representative of what makes them a real person in the eyes of the perpetrator.

Alas, the episode ends on a sort of cliff hanger, with the crime not yet solved.  I guess I’ll have to watch a few more episodes to determine whether the attitudes expressed towards the female victim in this episode are indicative of the overall flavor of the show.  I hope not. I found the frequent references to the victim’s appearance distracting and irrelevant.  Not to mention completely inappropriate.  Unless it turns out to be relevant to this particular plot line, I think I’d find those sort of repeated remarks too irritatingly misogynistic to continue to watch the show.

cast of Spiral

cast of Spiral

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