Psychiatrist Shoots Patient

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Anne Skomorkowsky of the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry writes in Truthout about a recent case of a psychiatrist who shot a patient. Skomorkowsky then explores our society’s misunderstandings of the relationships between mental illness and treatments, violence and guns. “Most violent crime is committed by sociopaths, not schizophrenics,” writes Skomorkowsky. “Mental health treatment offers little to the antisocial patient. Nonetheless, such patients are frequently found in mental health settings because they have symptoms associated with severe mental illness, symptoms like irritability, paranoid ideation, suicidal and homicidal thoughts and poor impulse control.”

“Psychiatrists can offer consultation, medication, psychotherapy and hospitalization. None is of any use to the antisocial patient, who is famously untreatable,” continues Skomorkowsky. “He needs social support, food, and money, but has a habit of devaluing and destroying everything he sees. The mental health system is just another source of disappointment for the sociopath. The psychiatrist personifies his hopelessness, as nothing he has to offer is worthwhile… The idea that criminals belong in the psychiatrist’s office is part of our culture’s denial that widespread social change is needed to prevent violent behavior.”

Guns in the Mental Health Clinic: Not Therapeutic (Truthout, August 3, 2014)

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9 COMMENTS

  1. “Mental health treatment offers little to the antisocial patient.” Agreed and that’s why: “The idea that criminals belong in the psychiatrist’s office is part of our culture’s denial that widespread social change is needed to prevent violent behavior.”
    Except that if someone is indeed a “sociopath” there’s little that will stop him/her from harming others.

  2. Would it somehow be less accurate to say that psychiatry famously and simply sucks at treating those diagnosed as having antisocial behaviors, rather than that these patients are untreatable? (“The mental health system is just another source of disappointment for the sociopath…” Well that explains my problem! Apparently I’m a sociopath.) I cry foul on this article – and the headline. Considering the facts here, “Psychiatrist Shoots Patient” is misleading.

    • Btw, why the hell would a sociopath need treatment to begin with? I mean medical treatment is supposed to help the patient to alleviate his/her suffering, prevent them from getting disabled or dying etc. If someone is a sociopath it’s everyone else who has a problem, not this person, that’s kind of in the definition – they don’t care.
      It’s again about social control, nothing else. When someone commits a crime they should be dealt with by the criminal justice system which of course should be humane and prepared to offer rehabilitation if possible. Excusing every crime by mental illness is just a way of getting some people off easily (what was the last hit, affluenza?) while excessively punish others (you’d get 5 days in jail but you get years in a psych ward plus brain damage).

    • That is exactly what I was wondering Michael. Particularly, if people go on and off their meds very quickly which we all know generally leads to horrific problems that look like a return of the illness but aren’t.

      Sadly, that will never be addressed in the media because it is too convenient to place blame on the stereotypical violent mental patient.

    • Well, a personality disorder is also pinned to your forehead when you continuously reject treatment, cause trouble and generally don’t want to comply. Which often happens with people who are dragged (and drugged) through the system and realise what kind of bs it is.

  3. “The idea that criminals belong in the psychiatrist’s office is part of our culture’s denial that widespread social change is needed to prevent violent behavior.”

    Yeah, there’s only room for one criminal in this office. And if our culture begins to recognise the contribution of psychiatry to violent behaviour, we might start to deal with some of it.