I posted this just after the Charleston shootings, but it needs saying again.
The media don’t say it in so many words, but that’s what they mean when they talk about “mental illness” after a tragedy, especially one that involves gun violence and mass murder.
Demons are responsible. And those demons are the mentally ill (and/or) their medications (or lack of medications). Any way you look at it, we are the demons.
Here’s one of my favorite examples lately:
“It seems to me, again without having all the details about this, that these individuals have been medicated and there may be a real issue in this country from the standpoint of these drugs and how they’re used.”
This was from Rick Perry, Daily Kos reminds us, “the fellow who destroyed his last presidential bid after a bizarre debate performance that he later blamed on prescription painkillers he had taken beforehand.”
(Don’t you love that part about speaking without having the details?)
And this, from Mike Adams, who calls himself “The Health Ranger” and Editor of NaturalNews.com:
The headline is “Every mass shooting over last 20 years has one thing in common… and it’s not guns.” The article is actually a reprint of “an important article written by Dan Roberts from AmmoLand.com.”
(NaturalNews sounds maybe okay, but when the source is AmmoLand, you’ve got to wonder about bias.)
“The overwhelming evidence points to the signal [sic] largest common factor in all of these incidents is the fact that all of the perpetrators were either actively taking powerful psychotropic drugs or had been at some point in the immediate past before they committed their crimes.”
Then follows a list of people, crimes, and drug names. The list was compiled and published to Facebook by “John Noveske, founder and owner of Noveske Rifleworks just days before he was mysteriously killed in a single car accident.”
(Again note the source and possible bias, plus the hint of conspiracy theory. Gotta love it.)
Want something more mainstream? How about Newsweek?
“Charleston Massacre: Mental Illness Common Thread for Mass Shootings,” by Matthew Lysiak:
“…. If history is any indication, the shooter most likely has a history of severe mental health issues that have either gone untreated or undiagnosed.”
He then provides a list of crimes and psychiatric diagnoses with a number of the same instances as the AmmoLand account, though not a listing of medications.
The author goes on to say that the “rise [in mass shootings] correlates directly with the closure of the mental health institutions in 1969, according to mental health experts.”
(Correlates with – not caused – please note. That’s important. I’ll have more to say about that, probably next week.)
Lysiak goes on to say that the requirements for civil commitment (read: involuntary) are too loose. He quotes Liza Gold, a forensic psychiatrist in Arlington, Virginia: “The commitment requirement needs to be less strict. Today it currently requires both mental illness and dangerousness to have someone committed. I think we need to focus more on the dangerousness and keep these people from getting guns.”
If that’s so, we should be worried more about “sane” people such as abusive partners with histories of violence and restraining orders than about the mentally disordered, shouldn’t we? Comments revealing that “most people who commit acts of violence don’t exhibit signs of mental illness, and most people who are mentally ill are not violent” are buried near the end of the article.
Fortunately, not all the media are demonizing the mentally ill, though the dissent doesn’t seem to be coming from the major media. Slate and Salon have published articles that question the automatic connection.
The article on Slate, by Anne Skomorowsky, is long, and refers to the Germanwings airplane deaths, but it’s thoughtful reading and well worth the time.
“Because Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz killed himself when he purposefully drove a plane carrying 149 other people into a mountain in the Alps, there has been an assumption that he suffered from “depression” — an assumption strengthened by the discovery of antidepressants in his home and reports that he had been treated in psychiatry and neurology clinics.” She adds, “Lubitz did not die quietly at home. He maliciously engineered a spectacular plane crash and killed 150 people. Suicidal thoughts can be a hallmark of depression, but mass murder is another beast entirely.”
And the take-away: “Many patients and other interested parties are rightly concerned that Lubitz’s murderous behavior will further stigmatize the mentally ill.”
Salon’s Arthur Chu talked about the more recent Charleston, SC, shootings and other incidents in “It’s not about mental illness: The big lie that always follows mass shootings by white males.”
“I get really really tired of hearing the phrase ‘mental illness’ thrown around as a way to avoid saying other terms like ‘toxic masculinity,’ ‘white supremacy,’ ‘misogyny’ or ‘racism.’
“’The real issue is mental illness’ is a goddamn cop-out. I almost never hear it from actual mental health professionals, or advocates working in the mental health sphere….Seeking medical help for depression or anxiety is apparently stronger evidence of violent tendencies than going out and purchasing a weapon….Doing the former is something we’re OK with stigmatizing but not the latter.”
I’ll let that be the last word, fellow demons. Until the next time, that is. Until the next time.
Correction: The Skomorowsky article appeared on Slate, not Business Insider, as originally stated. I have fixed the text and regret the error.
Here are the references for the articles cited, in order:
Comments on: "We’ve Got Demons in Our Heads" (6)
We face enough stigma as it is…this media hype just confirms in people’s minds how dangerous us Mentally Ill people are. It saddens me that our uphill struggle is getting harder.
More roadblocks instead of more help – it’s discouraging, you’re right.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’ve always asserted that anyone who goes out and kills a bunch of people (serial or mass killers) is, by definition, mentally ill. Sane, healthy people don’t do that sort of thing. It requires some sort of sociopathy.
Perhaps. But the effect is kind of like blaming all Muslims for 9/11. It leads to knee-jerk fear and misunderstanding. The flawed logic of X is Y; therefore all X are Y. (I know you don’t take it that far – you’re too rational.)
The media could help educate, but they generally don’t.
This is brilliant and obviously took a lot of work. I saved it in its’ own folder titled “brilliant blog”
I’m not gonna be a little kid and just ‘like’ your post, it deserves way more than that. I have long suspected that some of these hatreds, cultural values violated-shame, (Asia and stuff I’m not sure about), then misogynistic, domestic abuse stuff is more behind these incidents. I had a photographer friend write a book about domestic violence called “A Woman like you” and it was about how women who have been abused over and over again sometimes just fracture inside, grab the gun and go ‘pow’ and then THEY end up in jail. after all, the guns are in the house and abused spouses don’t like to talk, but there they are.
bipolarbrainiac, Allison strong. Good work. Sometimes I do researched articles but yours was above and beyond. Do you write for anyone?
Thank you for the kind words. I don’t write for anyone regularly, except for this blog, though I have in the distant past. I am currently preparing a submission for Vox’s First Person feature. Here’s hoping. I also hope to have another research-based blog post next week – or the week after, depending on how it goes.