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(4,311 posts)
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 03:36 PM Jun 2016

Can I just say something about mental health?

Last edited Sun Jun 12, 2016, 06:34 PM - Edit history (2)

Whenever these kinds of horrific events happen, there's always a lot of talk thrown around about the perpetrator being mentally ill. The media exploits this talk and uses terms like "psycho killer" to describe them.

It's really important to remember that the vast, vast majority of mentally ill people are NOT violent, and that most acts of violence are NOT committed by the mentally ill. You don't have to be mentally ill to murder someone. Not in the sense of a diagnosable mental illness.

Automatically assuming everyone who has committed an act of violence is mentally ill conflates the two in the public's mind. This leads to many bad outcomes, including:

- The mentally ill are discriminated against in myriad ways, including employment, benefits, and access to healthcare and education
- The mentally ill know that they face this discrimination, and are therefore less likely to seek help, and also less likely to adhere to medication schedules
- The mentally ill are more likely to receive harsher sentences in criminal trials
- The mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violent crimes

The problem of media stigma of the mentally ill is so widespread that an international measuring instrument has been produced: the PICMIN - Picture of Mental Illness In Newspapers (Rukvina et al, 2012). This standardised measure was developed in order to allow for comparison of stigmatising mental health media stories across countries and across time.

We have no knowledge yet (as far as I know, and please correct me if I'm wrong) that the shooter was diagnosed with a mental illness. It would be good to be careful with language - using phrases like "insane person", etc to describe him.

Here I confess something. I am a psychologist, and today, as I watched this horror in Orlando unfold, I actually used the above phrase "insane person" to describe the shooter in a post here. I was horrified by the images I saw coming out of Florida, crying, and just didn't think before I typed. Another DUer called me on it (nicely) and I immediately edited. But I am someone who WORKS in mental health, and I did that. This is how pervasive this is. I apologise for the few minutes that post of mine was up.

Thank you for reading.

Can I just say something about mental health? (Original Post) auntpurl Jun 2016 OP
Terrorists are normally sane and understand fully what they are doing. NutmegYankee Jun 2016 #1
Yes. auntpurl Jun 2016 #3
Good read DustyJoe Jun 2016 #2
Well, that is clearly not true. auntpurl Jun 2016 #4
Why would you want to own something made to kill unless you want to kill? scscholar Jun 2016 #27
wonderful post. thank you. cali Jun 2016 #5
Thanks for reading. auntpurl Jun 2016 #6
When someone commits such an atrocity Aerows Jun 2016 #19
"Unstable is a mental illness": Not in the sense of diagnosis and treatment. auntpurl Jun 2016 #20
I get what you are saying - the vast majority Aerows Jun 2016 #21
I'm so sorry. auntpurl Jun 2016 #22
Just when I think things have gotten better Aerows Jun 2016 #23
I was thinking today auntpurl Jun 2016 #24
... auntpurl Jun 2016 #7
we must talk about mental illness KT2000 Jun 2016 #8
"Words are important and we all have a need to separate ourselves from such an act." auntpurl Jun 2016 #9
as memory serves me - KT2000 Jun 2016 #15
It is much more helpful to base gun ownership on past actions than mental illness diagnosis. auntpurl Jun 2016 #17
reading comprehension KT2000 Jun 2016 #18
I think there is a valid conversation as to whether it is "sane" to think a magic being in the sky Warren DeMontague Jun 2016 #10
This is why language is important. auntpurl Jun 2016 #12
I think the real reflexive denial here is to make the connection to Islamic Fundamentalism Warren DeMontague Jun 2016 #14
I believe IS needs to be wiped out. auntpurl Jun 2016 #16
It's also an easy out. progressoid Jun 2016 #11
Yes. auntpurl Jun 2016 #13
One of the greatest atrocities that St. Ronnie committed Stonepounder Jun 2016 #25
How about a person being brainwashed, I liken his actions to a violent cult-like behavior oregonjen Jun 2016 #26
I'm a hunter with a history of Depression. Odin2005 Jun 2016 #28


(16,038 posts)
1. Terrorists are normally sane and understand fully what they are doing.
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 03:39 PM
Jun 2016

This individual no doubt dehumanized his victims to justify his acts of murder for his "cause".


(4,311 posts)
3. Yes.
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 03:45 PM
Jun 2016

In the actual diagnosable sense of "mentally ill", the vast majority of people who commit violence are not.


(849 posts)
2. Good read
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 03:40 PM
Jun 2016

You will find though that in these threads a LOT espouse that all evil gun owners are mentally ill just because they want or own a firearm.


(4,311 posts)
6. Thanks for reading.
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 04:15 PM
Jun 2016

It's comforting to think that people who commit this kind of horrific violence MUST be mentally ill, but the truth is they are usually quite sane. How a sane person can walk into a nightclub (or a fucking elementary school) and kill dozens of people defies our internal common sense of how the human mind SHOULD work. It shouldn't be possible for a sane person to murder in cold blood. But it is.



(39,961 posts)
19. When someone commits such an atrocity
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 05:41 PM
Jun 2016

a normal human being can't grasp why they would do such an awful thing.

You bring up a good point, but in the struggle to look at the end result, I can't help but come to the conclusion that he was unstable - unstable is a mental illness.

I just can't fathom how somebody could hate other people so much that they do something like this.


(4,311 posts)
20. "Unstable is a mental illness": Not in the sense of diagnosis and treatment.
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 05:50 PM
Jun 2016

I hope you understand I am not excusing this horrific incident or any other violent crime when I say this:

There is a difference between someone being "crazy" or "unstable" in the colloquial sense and someone having a diagnosable mental illness. It is not a differentiation we make in general life because it's obvious to any thinking person that there is something seriously wrong with someone who can do these things. But the "wrong" is not to do with the function of the brain, in most cases. It is functioning as it should. Sometimes (most times) a murderer is just a murderer. And that is awful and doesn't make any sense. It feels so wrong, but it's true.

And when we use words like "unstable" to describe a violent criminal when it has not been reported that he had a diagnosed mental illness (at least so far, and that may change of course), the schizophrenic down the street who has never in his life committed a violent act (and is statistically more likely to have been a victim than a perpetrator of violent crime) feels less safe to go and seek treatment, or less motivated to continue his med schedule.

It's hard to worry about language at a time like this, when 50 people are dead. But times like this are when the media reinforces the stigma over and over again.



(39,961 posts)
21. I get what you are saying - the vast majority
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 06:01 PM
Jun 2016

of people who have a mental illness don't have a murderous bone in their body.

Hell, most people without mental illness don't either.

It's just such a shocking and disgusting crime. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this because as part of the gay community, I personally know people that have been flat out bashed in the street, and have been harassed myself.

I guess I'm just trying to make sense of something that is so beyond sensible that it breaks my heart.


(4,311 posts)
22. I'm so sorry.
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 06:03 PM
Jun 2016

I am just so sorry. I am heartbroken for you, and all my LGBT loved ones and, just, everyone. This is a terrible day.


(4,311 posts)
24. I was thinking today
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 06:10 PM
Jun 2016

we finally got gay marriage last year, and then the country goes and makes sure gay people will NEVER feel like full citizens with rights and security like everyone else has. I understand it was one man who committed the act, but many people share the culpability.

It's midnight here in the UK. I'm going to go to bed now and put this horror away (at least until I wake up tomorrow). I am with you, in my heart. I sincerely am.


(20,475 posts)
8. we must talk about mental illness
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 04:52 PM
Jun 2016

in relation to gun ownership. Distinctions can be made but we must do a better job of using the few laws available to keep guns away from people who will use them to kill others.

If we cannot look at what happened in Florida and call it insane, then it becomes normal. Words are important and we all have a need to separate ourselves from such an act. Use of the word insane is not a clinical diagnosis to begin with and it also defines behavior outside the norm.


(4,311 posts)
9. "Words are important and we all have a need to separate ourselves from such an act."
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 04:58 PM
Jun 2016

Exactly. That's exactly why people use mental illness phraseology to describe violent criminals. But the truth is that most violent criminals are not mentally ill. They are sane. They understand what they are doing.

"keep guns away from people who will use them to kill others" - but mentally ill people are NOT more likely to kill others with a gun. Mentally ill people are more likely to be VICTIMS of a violent crime than perpetrators.


Oliver cited “one study that found that fewer than 5 percent of 120,000 gun-related killings were committed by people diagnosed with mental illness.” That comprehensive study was done by Vanderbilt University researchers Jonathan Metzl and Kenneth MacLeish, who analyzed data and literature linking guns and mental illness over 40 years. The researchers concluded that it’s not the stereotypical “violent madman,” the young, white, angry male, whom we need to fear.


Most people with mental illness are not violent. In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violence.


(20,475 posts)
15. as memory serves me -
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 05:14 PM
Jun 2016

many of the mass killers had been diagnosed with mental conditions.
I never said all people with mental illness are violent criminals. That is why this subject never gets anywhere - broad strokes when a fine point is needed.
I also did not say that all mentally ill people kill others. There are diagnosed conditions in people that indicates they should not be armed. Maybe the psychiatric associations could examine this because when an aggressive, angry, unstable person - one you would not want to be in the same room with starts amassing weapons and makes threats - gee maybe we should not sell them guns. Maybe there should be mechanisms to stop that person.

I have to say you made a straw man argument out of what I actually said.


(4,311 posts)
17. It is much more helpful to base gun ownership on past actions than mental illness diagnosis.
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 05:23 PM
Jun 2016

If someone has committed a violent act, whether that be assault or domestic violence or even road rage that results in an accident, they are far more likely to commit violence with a gun than someone with, for example, a schizophrenia diagnosis.

I never said you said "all". But you made the direct connection in your first post.

Aggressive and angry do not always (or even often) go with unstable. This is the fundamental misunderstanding. They are "crazy" in the colloquial sense, because what kind of person goes into a public establishment and murders dozens of people? But they are not unstable in the clinical sense (unless they are, as I said below. Antisocial personality disorder can lead to violence. But most violent acts are NOT committed by people with a diagnosable mental health condition.).

Warren DeMontague

(80,708 posts)
10. I think there is a valid conversation as to whether it is "sane" to think a magic being in the sky
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 04:59 PM
Jun 2016

is obsessively concerned with your neighbors' sex lives.

But unfortunately, we can't have that conversation because it is a delusion apparently shared by huge numbers of humans.


(4,311 posts)
12. This is why language is important.
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 05:05 PM
Jun 2016

We use words like "nuts", "insane", etc to describe someone who does this, and we mean it in a colloquial way. As in "That is just crazy." It's not meant in a clinical way. But it still drives people to make the unconscious connection between mental illness and violent crime. I wish there were other words to use for, as you describe, people who are "delusional" (that is ALSO not a clinically correct term in this context) about gay people or women or minorities because of extremist religion or bigotry. But the words we're using now hurt people. I don't have an answer. I used the word "shithead" to describe the shooter earlier today. It's not as satisfying and doesn't feel as true as "lunatic" would have, but I feel I have a responsibility to try to find language that isn't stigmatising to a group that, statistically speaking, is LESS likely to have been involved in this horrific event.

Warren DeMontague

(80,708 posts)
14. I think the real reflexive denial here is to make the connection to Islamic Fundamentalism
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 05:13 PM
Jun 2016

Just as right wingers dont want to talk about assault weapon availability.

Everyone has their blind spots.

But yes, i hear you.


(4,311 posts)
16. I believe IS needs to be wiped out.
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 05:19 PM
Jun 2016

There is no arguing with this group, no diplomacy, no peace treaties. They want to kill every last one of us, and are happy to die themselves doing it. They are a threat to human life everywhere in the world. They have killed far more Muslims than they will ever kill non-Muslims.

IS is also different from the Taliban in that they are not hiding in caves. One of the tenets of the caliphate is that they must take over territory. They are findable. And they must be imprisoned or killed.

I've never felt this way about any other group. I've spent my professional life trying to help people. It's very difficult to square these feelings in my mind.


(49,074 posts)
11. It's also an easy out.
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 05:03 PM
Jun 2016

It's a lot easier to say someone is crazy or mentally ill than to explore the nuance of something like this.

This happens every time something horrific like this occurs.


(4,311 posts)
13. Yes.
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 05:09 PM
Jun 2016

It's a lot easier to assume the person is crazy, because it's very uncomfortable to talk about a sane person walking into a nightclub (or an elementary school) and murdering dozens of people. Just does not compute. And what is the answer? What do we do with people like that? There is no mental health rehabilitation, because they have no mental health diagnosis (unless they do, of course. There are examples of violent killers with antisocial personality disorder and other diagnoses. Unfortunately, APD responds to almost NO treatment, including talk therapy and medication.). They just murder because they are murderers. That does not feel right or true or satisfying, as a society.


(4,033 posts)
25. One of the greatest atrocities that St. Ronnie committed
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 06:54 PM
Jun 2016

was basically defunding mental health care in the US.

When I was a child my father was a clinical psychologist at the (mumble) State Hospital. This was a place for those who simply could not function in the outside world. They ranged from the 'nearly normal' to the locked ward. (Forgive me for not using the correct psychological terms.) Some of there were there temporarily, others for life. But it was a place for those who, for whatever reason, did not, or could not, fit into the outside world.

As an adult I had a step-son who was clearly schizophrenic. He was continually in and out of jail, and preferred living on the streets to living in a normal home. In the small town I lived in, in the Sierras of California, there was a very caring and compassionate judge. I had talked to him about my step-son's problems and he truly understood. Three different times he sent my step-son for a competency evaluation, trying to get him into some sort of mental facility as an alternative to prison and three times he was found 'competent'. The last time was when he was up for GTA. He had stolen a car in Los Angeles and driven it 300 miles to come visit us. His statement to the court was, "Well, the keys were in it and the owner obviously wasn't using it." He really didn't understand that he had done anything wrong.

So long as we refuse to medical attention to all who need it, we are going to continue to see the severely disturbed committing acts that are incomprehensible to the vast majority of us.


(3,279 posts)
26. How about a person being brainwashed, I liken his actions to a violent cult-like behavior
Sun Jun 12, 2016, 07:05 PM
Jun 2016

He obviously had issues and this particular group he identified with is violent and full of hate. However, he felt he belonged and perhaps gave him an outlet for his hate and filled him with a purpose we would find unfathomable.


(53,521 posts)
28. I'm a hunter with a history of Depression.
Mon Jun 13, 2016, 10:57 AM
Jun 2016

I get pissed off at this talk about taking away guns from the mentally ill, it is horrifically stigmatizing and bigoted. Mentally ill people are more likely to be victims of gun violence that the perpetrators of it.

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