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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STFU- Violence and Taking Responsibility

We are living in a world I almost don’t recognize.  Or maybe I just wish I didn’t recognize it.  We live in a world where parents can murder their own children and then lie about it while a whole country looks on.  We live in a world where a man can murder his pregnant wife, and where kids go to school and shoot up the place, with reasonable expectations, or even plans, of dying.  A place where people do drugs they know could lead them to acts of cannibalism and violence and kids feed firecrackers to dogs.

And if everybody whines enough- about their jobs, their parents, society- there’s even a chance of getting away with these horrible crimes.  Or being paid money.

All of us “normal” people are clamoring for an explanation, an end to the violence.  So, after quite a few conversations in this vein, I have decided to blog my ideas on the topic.  Now let me start with a disclaimer:

The following is my opinion and is based on all my education, experience, discussions, and observations.  While I do have a BS in Psychology and Sociology, I am by no means an expert.  Nor is my opinion rooted in theology. I’m not going to tell you everything would be “fixed” if we put God back into the schools.  The problem facing America (and many other industrialized nations) is complex, therefore the answer will also be complex.  For each act of violence there may often be “mitigating” circumstances.  Sociological causes (basically, how society influences the behavior of individuals) and psychological causes have been suggested.

I was abused as a child so I … [blah blah blah]

or It’s because we are so poor that I had to [blah blah blah]

I’m not even going to say these things aren’t sometimes factors.  However, I think there is way more flagrant violence than can be accounted for legitimately with these excuses.

And I can’t tell you how it burns me up, every time some school kid goes on a rampage and then it comes out “he listened to heavy metal,” or “he played violent video games.”

So let me tell you what I think a BIG part of the problem is…

Lack of accountability.   Yup.  That’s it.  Every time a parent sues someone over some little transgression, they are teaching their children that if you don’t get your way, you can basically bully someone into doing what you want.  Really, what are frivolous lawsuits but attempts to legally bully someone?

And any time a kid shoots at someone or kills his parents or a sibling, there’s a whole league of people waiting hand the kid his excuses on a silver platter.  I feel like this kid who took a shotgun to Perry Hall High is a perfect example.  He has seen on television how he can walk into a school and shoot it up, make whatever inane point by doing so, and then escape facing any consequences by killing himself or having the cops kill him.  I’m not saying TV is at fault.  I’m saying he has learned that he can “make a statement” dramatically because others have done it before him and there have been no real consequences.  After all, what consequences can you expect if you’re dead?  But the whole point is that people have been led to believe that they are entitled somehow.  I am all for equality and compassion and tolerance of others, but the country has gone so far down the Politically Correct road, that now everybody feels like they are owed something, and every time someone wins a lawsuit over some dumb shit, it reinforces the idea of non-culpability and entitlement.  

Every time a burglar gets bit by his victim’s dog or cuts himself on his victim’s kitchen knife and then wins a lawsuit about it, our own legal system is enforcing the idea that you can not only escape responsibility for your actions, but actually profit from them.

Casey Anthony is another example (barf.)  This bitch led a whole nation on an emotional hunt for a child she already KNEW was dead.  At this point, let’s even assume she didn’t intentionally kill the baby.  She willfully covered it up and lied repeatedly about it.  And really, she’s basically gotten away with it, with a slap on the wrist, a butt-load of attention (which I’m sure she loved in all her sophomoric twisted-ness), and probably an even bigger butt-load of offers for made-for-tv movies and interviews and whatever.  It’s sick.

How about the newest thing, bath salts?  After several documented cases of cannibal-like behavior resulting from the use of bath salts, this asshole  is deemed “not competent” to stand trial for being found in his bedroom with a dead pygmy goat.  A pygmy goat he stole, allegedly raped, and then butchered.  Well, by all means, let’s cart him off to a mental facility for 6 months, let him out, and then when he does the same thing to a human victim, maybe THEN he’ll be competent to stand trial.

My bad. I thought if you willingly ingested mind-altering substances, you were held responsible for any illegal actions you might commit while on said substances…

So, basically, he was crazy before he ever took the drugs?  Oh, well than that’s different.  Next time, just don’t let him out without his leash and everything will be fine.

And please can we just stop with the over-simplistic and ignorant answers to the problem?  It’s not Marilyn Manson or violent video games and movies.  I am a 31 year old mother and a wife and I have listened to metal, watched horror movies with a passion, and played video games since…forever.  I’d not stomp a spider, let alone kill a person in cold blood.  By the time a child gets to the appropriate age for such games and films, he/she should be old enough to know right from wrong and real from imaginary…and if the kid is still young and still learning these delicate worldly ideas, then maybe the parents should be held responsible for allowing said child access to media that is too mature (violent) for them in the first place.

It’s not lack of God in the schools.  Thanks; I’m not religious, yet my code of ethics and my level of tolerance is undoubtedly stronger than many so-called religious people.  God hates fags?  Really?  Did he tell you that himself?  Didn’t he also say “judge not…”?  Last time I checked, God doesn’t preach hate.  

(And here’s a real mind-fuck… How many church “people” have you heard of who disparage the violence and sexuality in today’s music and TV?  Okay, now, how many church officials have you heard of who have been caught molesting children? My point here is not necessarily to disparage religion, but to point out that there are many good people who are not religious, and many religious people who are not necessarily good.   Also, as indicative of the above passage, a lot of people hide behind religion as a way to justify hate.)

It’s not our DNA or our “killer” instinct…  And even if it was, the whole idea behind being human is that we have higher thought processes, and here’s a novel idea– the ability to exert self-control and make conscious decisions.

I’m not saying my theory holds the key to the ultimate solution.  The things that drive people to violence are varied and often complex.  Violence could never be completely eradicated.  But we can start by adopting a lower tolerance to it.  This starts at home, and it’s up to the legal system to enforce the idea of consequences and accountability out in the “real world.”  Let’s not forget that the rules appear to be different for folks with fame/and or money.  Kids see their pop culture icons getting away with all sorts of crap.   The little girls who used to be in the Mickey Mouse club are crashing into people with their cars while they’re drunk and yet some people are worried about a video games corrupting kids?

Get your head on straight, people.

And this may sound counterproductive in combating violence in society…but have you ever met teen that was so obnoxious you couldn’t help but think maybe their parents should have smacked them around more during their formative years?  I know I have.

For instance, if I ever saw MY kid run into a pregnant lady and then give her lip when she said something about it, I’d cuff ’em right in the ear (this happened to me at the public pool when I was pregnant.)  The other day I saw a lady (and I use the term loosely) allowing her dog to shit in a common public area.  When I asked her if she planned to pick it up (she had no bag or anything with her) she gave me a raft of shit (no pun intended.)  How hard is it to understand that I don’t need my small child trampling through your dog’s mess?  Is it untoward for me to request she pick up after the nasty little beast?  This woman, this huge she-beast who lives with her adult daughter on HUD assistance had the nerve to tell me I needed to get a job!  All because I called her out on something she knew was wrong in the first place.

Apparently, as there are no consequences for being an asshole (you’d get sued for knocking the teeth out of someone being disrespectful to you now,) people feel free to throw courtesy right out the window.

Seriously, ignorance aside (even though it drives me absolutely batshit,) I fear for my child in this world.  It makes me want to move my family to some isolated mountain in Montana or something.

Anyway, sorry if I sound preachy.  This stuff really irks the piss out of me, and I pretty much feel helpless to do anything to change the majority of it.  I can teach my kids solid values and responsibility, but there’s no way for me to force the rest of the world to act like civilized human beings.  I just have to arm my kid with knowledge and then hope for the best.  And that scares the crap out of me.

English: McDonalds' sign in Harlem.

By the way, while we’re talking about “responsibility,” it’s not McDonald’s fault that you’re fat.