Mental Health Issues Or An Excuse?

By Tim Fromla

Mental illness is often the reason behind any violent act.  Here are some recent examples:

A Vietnam Veteran who visited Uganda as a missionary was taken into custody by law enforcement for assault after attacking a hotel employee. The man blamed mental illness for his outburst according to the U.K.s Daily Mail. According to the Daily Mail, the man was drunk.

Yes, racism played a role, and if it were me, as an atheist, I would probably have been a victim. If I lied and said I am a Christian, I would probably have been left alone. Mental issues and not alcohol is the excuse the missionary used for his action. Kampala Metropolitan Police reported in a Friday post on Facebook that it has arrested the U.S. citizen, Jimmy L. Taylor, after security cameras showed him punching and cursing at an employee at Grand Imperial Hotel.

Back in Florida, according to the Independent, a U.K. News organization, “The suspected gunman behind America’s latest mass shooting had a history of mental illness and was prescribed anti-psychotic medicine, court records revealed.” Once again, a mentally ill person was responsible for the massacre and not a firearm. The shooter, David Katz legally bought the guns legally according to the ABC affiliate in Chicago.  It was his poor mental health and not the availability of pistols nor the stress of a painful divorce of his parents that was cited by ABC as the cause that led to this tragedy.

But, are all, or even many violent incidents due to mental health problems?  What do mental health experts say?  According to the New York Times,

“Overall, mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent 1 percent of all gun homicides each year, according to the book “Gun Violence and Mental Illness‘ published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2016.”

Or in 2017, with 345 cases of the mass shooting  (three or more victims) nationwide, about 3 of these cases were committed by mentally ill folks. Now, if anyone went through treatment or if there was a ban on purchasing firearms, then 342 people will still be killed because 99 percent of all shooters are not ill.

As a person with mental health issues, the last thing any of us want is to be a part of any stigma. More than 99 percent of us are not violent nor do we wish to hurt anyone. As a person with a disability, it sickens me when the media, our elected officials or even the public blame the illness on a massacre, but even more disheartening is the stigma that maybe leaving people like us alone is the better path to take than addressing our issues head-on.

2 Replies to “Mental Health Issues Or An Excuse?”

  1. Thanks for writing this, Tim. I’m glad you point out that mental illness is frequently and often inaccurately blamed for violent incidents but while I was reading your post it raised a question in my mind. What does “mental illness” mean? If someone commits a violent act, aren’t they mentally ill whether they have a diagnosable condition or not? As Mandela and Obama have said, our natural state is love, not hate. Does that mean that someone who hates and then acts on it is mentally ill? I know it’s just a word but words and labels matter, as we both know.

    1. Good question. According to scientist and doctors, about one percent of all mass shootings are by people who are mentally ill. According to AOL, there was 345 (https://tinyurl.com/ybua9s4f) mass shooting in the U.S. Of those, 3.5 shooters were deemed mentally ill. When a spouse suspects their partner is cheating and kills them, are they mentally ill? Not necessarily. In California, it’s second-degree murder or killing in the heat of passion. California law for second degree murder states that, ”Second-degree murder is ordinarily defined as: 1) an intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, nor committed in a reasonable “heat of passion”; or 2) a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender’s obvious lack of concern for human life.” Is the murderer angry? Yes. They killed because they were not thinking logically. Not all people who are killers are mentally ill. In this case, the person’s mindset is anger and not an illness.

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