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

Advertisements

You Have the Right to Shut the F*ck Up

I think this is the last I’ll say on this topic (and that includes responses to any irate gun owners.)

Do I think rights are important?  Yes.

Do I think they are guaranteed or owed?  No

Do rights really exist?  One would think a right is something that can’t be taken away or given.  Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, bearing arms… all can be taken away.  They are not guaranteed.

Unfortunately, there is little in this world that can not be taken away.  Most of the “rights” we have are “rights” that were given to us, either by law or religion.

We are born into this world naked.  We don’t come from our mothers equipped with a full set of rights.

According to Wikipedia and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, rights are defined as follows:

Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory.

To me, the key word in this passage is entitlement.  I see a fair amount of abuse directed at Americans online, especially by non-Americans.  We’re “bullies,” we’re ignorant, we’re arrogant.

While I do largely agree with that assessment, it still rankles me to see an entire nation discriminated against based on the actions of a few, namely the government.

But, America does have a problem, and I think it comes largely from a sense of entitlement.  I honestly think our problem with violence in this country largely stems from that feeling of entitlement.  And we got that sense of entitlement from our own government and judicial system.  Our country was founded on some “fundamental rights”enacted by Congress.  Fast forward a couple hundred years to the land of frivolous lawsuits, some of which are actually won.

Between laws set forth and court rulings (judgments) on criminal cases and civil suits, our country has set a dangerous precedence.  They have given a lot of people in this country the mentality of a three year old, that being, “I deserve to be happy, I deserve to get my way, and if I don’t, I’m going to have a temper tantrum sue.”

I am sick to fucking death of seeing all the people who have been proselytizing about their “right to bear arms” in the wake of Newtown.  Between the gun rights advocates and the gun control advocates, it seems there can be no middle ground either.  You would think some of the gun control laws being proposed or already in place are common sense.  But lately it feels like people are immune to common sense, or even facts and statistics.

You’re pissed about your “right to bear arms?”  Well, guess what.  Those 20 dead little kids should have had a right to go to school without fear of gruesome death!  I’ve  got news for you; most of the rights you have were given to you by the government, and thus, can be taken away by the government.

Some people would argue our “rights” are what separate us from less civilized people and places.  I agree that rights are important, but what I am trying to get across is that people are letting their perceived rights make them arrogant and ambivalent to the plights of others.  Believe it or not, I actually support the right to bear arms.  That said, I do not think that right should be without restrictions.  My problem is with the people placing their “right to bear” over the safety of our children, with lame arguments that “guns don’t kill people,” and opposition to even statistical data that supports the fact that easy access to weapons means the weapons get used more often in crimes of violence (case in point, the statistics on victims of lethal domestic violence and gun ownership.)**Someone the other day argued with me that by this logic, since his whole family owned guns, I was insinuating that one of them must be an abuser.  Such ignorant misinterpretation of the facts is a symptom of the arrogance I mentioned.  This person simply did not want to acknowledge any factual data that ran counter to his own desire to “keep his guns.”**  What this basically boils down to is, in the case of domestic violence, if a gun is around to be used, there is a higher chance it will be used.  I realize most gun owners are not abusers, but I’m going to extrapolate to violent crime in general and say if a person has easy access to a gun (whether it’s their own or a family member’s or friend’s), they are more likely to use said gun.

Maybe it seems like I’m picking on the “gun people.”  It’s only because the news and social media sites have been flooded with knee-jerk speeches about gun rights and gun control since the Newtown tragedy.  But the basic idea applies to everyone.

Maybe it’s a stretch, but I think if you take the idea of entitlement one step further, you are on your way to understanding the cause of a lot of violence too.

“I want something, you can’t keep me from having it, I have a right to have it, I’m going to take it. “

It seems to be pretty obvious that all the media coverage on mass killings like this seem to encourage other unstable people to air their grievances in a similar manner.  People who are dissatisfied, feel “wronged,” are unhappy with their lot in life, now feel entitled  to be noticed, to force their pain on others.

Anyway, though I digressed (at length) and maybe vented a bit, everyone is entitled to their opinion…and that’s about the only “right” you have that can’t be taken away.

*** Like I said, everyone is entitled to their opinions (the above is my opinion,) and you are welcome to share yours as long as it’s respectful.  Just please don’t expect a response from me regarding “gun rights,” because I think I’ve said all I have to say.  

 

Gun Control, Gun Rights, and Women (updated)

Pursuant to the massacre at Newtown and President Obama’s subsequent attempt to institute a stricter gun policy, there has been a tight focus on gun rights and an immense push to make our schools safer for our children.  Needless to say, the result is that the divide between gun rights advocates and gun control advocates is widening.

I have always leaned towards agreeing with the right to own a gun and protect oneself and one’s family.  That said, I believe the words gun control have gotten a bad rap.  Somewhere along the way, the idea of moderation, of common sense, got lost to both sides and the words gun control became synonymous with  “complete firearm ban.”

I do believe control is the issue.  I think people who own firearms need to better secure them against theft and illicit use (even by members of their own families.)  I think gun owners should be held to the strictest responsibility for their firearms.  I do not feel there should be a total ban on firearms.

The aim of this article though is to give some food for thought to both sides by introducing a slightly different perspective on the gun rights issue.  This is merely information…information backed by statistics and scientific inquiry.

I doubt there is anything worse than what happened at Sandy Hook in December, but this information shifts the focus of gun victimization.  To women.

Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.(source)

This is women, killed by men who legally own their firearms.  In short, it suggests a link between the availability of household firearms and female victimization rates.  

Of course, the first argument against this concept is that a man who would beat on his wife should not be allowed to own weapons, and there are laws that prohibit the purchase of a firearm by a person subject to a domestic violence restraining order.  But that is true only of known abusers.  What about the women who have not reported their abuse?

Approximately 20% of the 1.5 million people who experience intimate partner violence annually obtain civil protection
orders. (source)

As I said before, I’m not really trying to push a partisan view of the gun issue, I’m merely hoping to give both gun control advocates and gun rights advocates more information…

And perhaps help them to see we should all be working together towards a solution to end gun violence, rather than fighting against one another.  Maybe if we try to view the problem collectively- and objectively- we can come up with a solution that protects everyone’s rights and safety.

image: HR Giger

image: HR Giger

After yet another mass shooting, by a homegrown (that’s American) Islamic terrorist,  using mostly “legally” purchased firearms…in a club with armed “good guys” (security guards)…

Analysis by the Violence Policy Center has found that at least 29 mass shootings since 2007 were carried out BY perpetrators with concealed carry permits. That’s more than three times the number of concealed permit holders who prevented mass shootings through their swift action. (source)

I am tired of banging my head against a wall arguing with people who let their emotions mold the “facts” to suit them.  To be very clear, it doesn’t matter how you “feel” about it, or how much you support 2nd Amendment rights; it is a documented fact that increased gun ownership in a developed county leads to increased gun deaths in that country.  Not only is it documented, it is common fucking sense

The number of firearms injuries remains high in the United States, compared with most of the rest of the world. Firearm suicide rates are strongly impacted by the rate of gun ownership. (Kaplan and Geling, 1998) There is a positive correlation between firearm fatality rates and number of guns in developed nations.  (Bangalore and Messerli, 2013) (source)

One thing remains certain, despite laws for or against gun control, a lack of care and concern regarding one’s fellow human beings, whether in war or through domestic violence, will continue to promote firearms injuries. (source)

Can We Make Our Schools Safer?

*edited 

Oh, look.  Another school shooting.  Dismaying, but not surprising.  If you’re a regular reader, you may have already read a bit about my feelings and theories on Newtown and similar senseless and sensational crimes.  People are tempted to bring all sorts of political opinions  to issue, even if they have little (or nothing) to do with the crimes in question.  Many people spout rhetoric as an almost knee-jerk reaction, but a lot of people are just plain scared and are looking for an answer- any answer- to the problems plaguing our country and the world.

I don’t know what to do about guns.  I do believe access to guns is too easy.  People that don’t have guns of their own seem to be able to still procure them with relative ease, sometimes simply by stealing or “borrowing” one from someone they know.

Kern County sheriff Donny Youngblood said at a news conference Thursday night that the 16-year-old used a shotgun that belonged to his brother and went to bed Wednesday night with a plan to shoot two fellow students. (source)

I don’t think Mental Health Care reform is the problem, and at any rate, that seems to take the focus off the victims and hand the perpetrator an excuse.

Letting “God back in the schools” won’t do it either.

But one thing I think we can focus on is making our schools safer.  I don’t want to hear that it’s expensive.  The money that goes to inflated Congressional salaries and frivolous expenditures can and should be re-routed to make our children safer.

One thing that would help is to “treat schools like we treat courthouses,” as my hubby says.  I think metal detectors would be a great investment.  Every unsecured, public entrance to the school should have one.  (Really, ALL entrances should have one, but let’s not give the guys that write the budget simultaneous coronaries just yet.)  And a security guard posted at each entrance, especially during the hours of the day when there is high volume traffic.  If a metal detector is triggered, the guards can be on hand to handle the situation, and if a metal detector goes off at any given time during the day and is not immediately shut down, there should be a school-wide protocol that directs all teachers to lock down their classrooms.  Any students in the halls during a lock down would be directed to hide or make their way to a predetermined safe location.  Security officers should be specially trained to handle crisis situations.  We’re not talking a supermarket cop collaring people for trying to smuggle candied hams out in their drawls, we’re security personnel with the training and the will to take down a kids with a gun.  These little punks aren’t playin’ around and they need to know that the schools and the cops aren’t either.

Garrett-PD6500i-walk-through-metal-detector pic-11

Speaking of which, I know I can’t be alone in calling for stricter laws on media reporting, especially in the first few hours after a crisis.  One of the reasons that these freaks end up doing things on such a massive scale, shooting up schools and killing their whole families and whatnot, is because they think they can make a mark on the world, hurt people with their rage,  wrong others the way they’ve been wronged (in their pathetic little minds.)  I realize that people want to understand why these people do the horrible things they do, but the answers are usually more complicated than blaming guns, video games, music, or bullying.   Aside from whatever deranged, disturbed thoughts might pop out of the killers’ mouths if we were to ask them why, we usually don’t get that opportunity, because they often end up dead.  And it doesn’t really matter anyway.  What matters are the victims, and the media needs to take steps to keep the focus on them instead of glorifying the killer by validating his actions and intentions with exhaustive media coverage.

Well, the media will always cry “1st amendment “ and “the public has the right to know! so I’m sure I might as well just wish in one hand as far as media accountability, so back to the metal detector thing…it may not be a perfect solution, but it is one concrete step we as a community can take to try and make our schools safer for our children.

*see some of the stupid things the government could cut from their budget to make our schools safer!