“Maybe Oregon Shooting and Others Aren’t About Mental Illness”


Matthew Cooper, writing for Newsweek, reports that despite the preponderance of political rhetoric about “mental illness” after mass shootings, a review of the research suggests that the connection between mental health and gun violence is dubious.

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  1. Most probably the connection between “mental illness” and mass violence is there, but not in the way the conventional media think.

    From reading descriptions of these sad, lonely, hateful, socially inept, angry young men who perpetrate these acts, it’s not hard to predict that in most cases an experienced psychologist would recognize them as “borderline personality disorder”, “schizoid personality disorder”, “antisocial personality disorder”, or “schizophrenic.” In psychodynamic terms, they have emotionally immature personalities characterized by heavy use of splitting, denial, and projection.

    So yes, they are “mentally ill”, but in the reality sense that they have been severely neglected and abused by parents, peers, and society, and therefore have immature personalities which are flooded with rage and terror and prone to viewing others as all-good or all-bad. When their conflicts become overwhelming, some of them act out violently.

    If these young men were relatively healthy individuals with good jobs, close friends, partners, and money, they would be much less likely to take the same actions.

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    • Plus that psychiatry does is the exact opposite of helpful – it tells them they’re defective and have to live with it after which it places them on drugs which cause disinhibition and lower empathy. Interesting that it backfires…

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  2. In the “mental health” system, there is the presumption of “sickness”. In the criminal justice system, there is the presumption of innocence. I find it little wonder at all that the modes of operating in one system should override the modes of operating in the other. The problem is that the majority of people in the “mental health” system are no more violent than the majority of people outside of the “mental health” system. Treating matters otherwise, as is being done, harms the majority of people in the “mental health” system more than it does anything else. More pointedly, when they aren’t violent themselves, it amounts to nothing but prejudice pure and simple. Should we be treating violence as a “mental health” matter? For the reasons just mentioned, emphatically, no.

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  3. The FBI profiled an Irish shooter at a daycare in the nineties (you can find the profile in Anatomy of Motive by Douglas). They found that the shooters were socially inadequate, felt wronged and unheard by society and may have attempted to reach out to authority figures in the past but been ignored, and that message continued to build inside their heads. They choose crimes that CANNOT be ignored which is why they tend choose schools and daycares, and there is rarely a plan to escape. The need for validation is so all consuming that anything afterwards is of little consequence. If this profile still holds true even on a limited basis, the news media’s all tragedy -all day reporting will only cement the idea in other’s heads. However, I still see that as a societal problem more than a question of “serious mental illness”.

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  4. If someone is violent they must be crazy. Hence “link” between mental illness and violence. Confirmation bias right there.
    Give there’s no definition of mental illness that would make any sense it’s extremely easy to label people displaying a given behaviour insane and then attribute this behaviour to all the other classes of insanity. It makes no sense unless that is exactly what you want to do.

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