Friday, 2 October 2015

In the aftermath of another school shooting, should we be scared of mentioning mental health?

I got drawn into an argument on Twitter regarding yesterday's tragic Oregon School Shooting and the issue of Mental Health. It's a hot potato and many of us disagree about the gun issue as well as the ways in which the US government could attempt to prevent these tragedies. Here are a few of my own thoughts on the mental health side of things.

Anybody that is responsible for a school shooting, killing and maiming people on a grand scale must have a wire loose somewhere. It's not rocket science.

Mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes. It can range from mild depression to anxiety to anger issues to schizophrenia to dementia. The list is endless. If somebody was to write a definitive book including every Mental Health condition it would be a book as big as the White House itself. But for somebody to plan and carry out a school massacre there has to be a mental health issue somewhere. I'm sure a lot of people who have suffered from a mental health issue won't like my statement but it doesn't mean it isn't true. Just because it's not a nice thought doesn't make it wrong.

I'm not saying or suggesting that everybody who has a mental health problem is capable of a mass shooting, of course not. That would be ridiculous .That isn't what I am suggesting and I don't think it's what President Obama was suggesting in his TV press conference. Although unfortunately I don't have a direct line to the White House to confirm that. But let's not mask the facts so that we don't upset a few applecarts. When it boils down to it and when all the investigations have been complete it will come out that Chris Harper-Mercer had some kind of a mental problem. Whether it is a long term depressive illness or a long term hatred for certain people, it's a mental health problem. You could say that he was evil. And I'm not arguing with that. But inside every evil is some kind of a mental health problem.

So there are a few people getting worked up because people like me are linking a school massacre to mental illness, but aren't the two inevitably linked?

I am not saying that murderers shouldn't be punished because they have some form of a mental imbalance, of course not. They should be punished. And harshly. But we shouldn't be scared of suggesting that in all probability there is always a mental health problem at the core. Did Chris Harper-Mercer have a diagnosed mental illness? I don't know. But to coin an unfortunate but common phrase, he must have had a screw loose somewhere and maybe it's about time the US government did something about mental health, as well as the gun laws?

Just because somebody suggests that a mass murderer probably had some form of mental health issue doesn't mean he is tainting all sufferers with the same brush. And it doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about it because that's how things get swept under the carpet.

What do you think?