Is It All in the Head?

Mental illness is an umbrella term that houses many different conditions, syndromes and disorders. Some of these are quite manageable and often completely unnoticed. Others may have no treatment options at all. Some may increase the chances of violent tendencies. Others may have not one iota of a violent predisposition.

It is being speculated that the shooter in the Newtown massacre may have been on the autism spectrum. First of all, we do not know that for sure. Second, even if he was, that doesn’t mean that is the only diagnosis he had been given. Third, the fact that he may have had autism may have about as much to do with this violent act as the color of his shirt.

Linking autism to violence is baseless and irresponsible. Those diagnosed with autism are actually less likely to commit a crime.

It is estimated that 1 in 4 American adults will have some type of mental disorder. Most people with these disorders will never commit a violent act; and, actually, there is a much greater chance of them being a victim, not a perpetrator.

I have known people on the sociopathic spectrum. I once spoke to a psychotherapist about these personality disorders. Shockingly, some of the most dangerous disorders (usually some degree of sociopathy/psychopathy) can be untreatable. Sometimes medications can help, but when people are void of empathy or the capacity to relate – you can basically only hope for the best and stay out of their way. That is, until they actually DO commit a crime and end up incarcerated or hospitalized.

Sociopaths and psychopaths know the difference between right and wrong, they simply do not care.  However, it must be acknowledged that people with these particular disorders make up a very small percentage of those with mental illness. Again – it cannot be repeated enough – most people with a mental illness do not have a higher tendency towards violence.

It has been reported that the shooter had a history of physical outbursts and unpredictable behavior, and that his mother was in the process of having him involuntarily committed. Truth is, we do not know what kind of issues he had. But we can pretty much assume that a person who can murder children must indeed have a very severe problem.

We know his mother (who was one of his victims) had a number of weapons (the weapons he used in these slayings) in the home they shared. I will not speak ill of the dead. I will try not to add to the accusations and speculations in her regard. I will say that it only makes sense that the psychological stability of other people living in the home should be a factor when approving a person for gun ownership.

His mother legally possessed those guns. She committed no crime of which we are aware. And I think that shows us that under current law, these weapons and their ammunition are far too easily accessible. While mental illness should not be a free pass after such an atrocity, while it usually does not make a person dangerous – it still must be considered when a permit is under consideration.

Another association being made since last Friday is mental illness and the state of being evil. It can be argued that true evil does not exist; that there are disorders which only mimic the signs some people consider evil. Others would argue that sociopaths and psychopaths do not have a mental illness at all – but were simply born bad.

I don’t know the answer. And deep down, neither do you. I think we need to be very careful not to assign such definitive and devastating attributes to various illnesses. This only escalates the stigma which is truly the last thing we, as a society, want to do.

I think the most dangerous aspect of mental illness is the stigma it carries. It is the reason people do not seek help, get treated or become educated about their condition. It is the reason people are often ostracized from society or bullied in school. We need to eradicate this stigma so that patients and families can educate and protect themselves without the hindrance of shame.

We all know people who participate in breast cancer awareness activities. How many of us know someone who has participated in a charity event for mental illness? States have cut $1.6 billion in funds from their mental health agency budgets since 2009. Sure, let’s take the money away from schools and treatment centers and add millions of guns to the mix just to end up with a short fused powder keg. That’s some sharp thinkin’ right there.

We absolutely must have mental healthcare reform in this country. Care needs to be easily affordable and accessible so that a diagnosis can be reached early and treatment can be provided appropriately. This is a very valid topic when considering solutions to these tragedies. But it is not the end all be all component to mass shootings and similar bloodshed.

God and Guns 101

If I hear one more time that we need guns in the schools, I will scream. If I hear one more person say that these things happen because we do not “allow God” in the schools, I will rip my hair out.

A teacher I know told me that if he is asked to carry a weapon to class, he will regretfully leave the job he loves. And who can blame him. It is quite ironic that, here in Wisconsin especially, teachers have been called lazy thugs and overpaid babysitters. Their pay and benefits have been cut and their classroom size and responsibilities have increased. And now legislators and gun enthusiasts want to bestow upon them the extreme burden of being armed scholastic soldiers.

Watching this video is just further confirmation that people misjudge and underestimate what goes into shooting a gun properly and effectively. No, we should NOT have guns in the schools. We should not have them in movie theatres or subways or churches. There is a greater chance of that gun – the one meant for protection – doing harm rather than good.  And the potential havoc is simply not worth the slim chance it will protect anyone.

You may have seen this quote floating through interwebland recently:

“If only one of the teachers had a gun…

One did. She owned several, in fact. Her son used them to kill her, her colleagues and 20 children.”

Suggesting and expecting educators arm themselves and live in some Wild West fantasy is nothing short of ludicrous. And honestly, those spouting this half-baked idea just prove to me even further that they are not mentally stable enough to own a gun.

As far as God in the classroom, I am not going to deliver a diatribe about why this is completely ridicudonk. Public schools are no place for religious indoctrination. Public schools are for children of all beliefs and non-beliefs. Public school teachers need to use their precious time teaching their overcrowded classes. Period.

I also think that God may be rolling Her eyes when She hears statements such as these. I mean seriously. You believe in this ever-present, all-forgiving, most-powerful and uber-loving being but you think She can’t get through the metal detectors and beefy hall monitors?

It seems to me that if there is a true belief in God – that presence will be with you always. And the beauty of prayer (if that is your thing) is that you can do it anywhere at any time.

Schools aren’t keeping God out. They are keeping students focused on why they are there – to learn, not to worship.

I won’t even discuss the idiotic statements about these events being God’s will as some kind of punishment. I mean, with a God like that…who needs a Satan?Yikes.

This is part two of a three part segment. You can see part one HERE. Part three will be published later in the week.



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