Mass Shootings and Mental Illness

Map of mass shootings in 2015. The situation is not improving.

The facts just do not support that addressing mental illness would reduce mass shootings. Individuals who commit mass shootings very frequently are not in the mental health system and do not disclose plans for violence to mental health professionals. What are after the fact warning signs are also present in lots and lots of individuals who do not go on to shooting sprees. Addressing these warning signs in all individuals could only be done in a totalitarian state. Red flag laws are a very good idea but very unpopular with the right. Colorado has a red flag law. Extensive background checks would be helpful but are opposed by the right. Mental health reform is clearly needed but mental health reform would not reduce mass shootings.

The fact of the matter is that the mental health system is now a very unwelcoming place for the seriously mentally ill. Mental health professionals simply do not have the courage to say to legislatures that though ‘we are trying as hard as we can to find transformative treatments we simply have not found them for the seriously mentally ill. We can provide support but we do not provide treatments that end disability. We can provide warm inviting clinics and housing services but pretending that we can get the seriously mentally ill back to work goes against that. Of course we do not want to have individuals on disability who are not disabled but after ten years with a psychotic disorder and three or four hospitalizations the writing is on the wall. At that point we should go into total support mode. If patients can hide their delusional beliefs in short conversations we should not declare them no longer disabled and if they think they have some great role to play in the world, which of course, must not involve violence, we should not increase their dosages until they have the information processing abilities of light bulbs.’

For mental health reform mental health professionals would have to say ‘Yes, the mental health system needs reform and what that demands is that we first reform ourselves.’

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