You Don’t Have to be Mad to Commit a Mass Killing.

For those familiar with the well-worn office notice “you don’t have to be mad to work here…”, you may have just finished off this sentence in your head… “but it helps”. The truth though, is that to commit a mass killing, mental health issues are far less a factor than are society’s expectations, childhood experiences and personality.

After the Texas church mass shooting, Donald Trump again jumped, without evidence to say that the man was “deranged”. He called the killer in Las Vegas “a sick, demented man” and the killer in New York last week “sick and deranged”.

But there must be “something wrong with them” you may cry and clearly there was. These were abhorrent acts but to leap to mental illness as the cause says more about us than it does about the truth.

Scapegoating, like bigotry has two parents; ignorance and fear. Awareness of mental health issues lags far behind our understanding of physical health issues. Exaggerated links between mental health and violence have been the staple of horror movies since the beginning of film.

So, what are the factors that can be at play in such incidence? Well, being male and having experienced an abusive childhood are strong indicators. This can lead to drug taking which further increases the risks.

For many of the self-styled killers stating religious reasons, a sense of personal grievance with the world or society can create a need for “revenge”. A feeling of inferiority can create a need to “achieve” an act that is noticed.

It would be as foolish to say that mental health is never an issue here as it is to say that it must the cause. A psychopath has a greater likelihood of causing harm to others than the general population (though far less than fiction would have us believe) but a depressed person is more likely to take his own life than someone else’s. For most mental health conditions, it is a negligible factor at most.

If we continually misdiagnosed cancer as Multiple Sclerosis, we would fail to treat it properly and know less about how to prevent it. If we continue to do the same with the causes of mass killings, as Donald Trump seems happy to do, this cancer will grow. We can be better than this. With proper diagnosis, we can help prevent future atrocities and leave the mentally ill out of it.

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