Wednesday, December 19, 2012

THE MENTAL HEALTH FACTOR

I have received many inquiries regarding the mental health factor in the Connecticut tragedy and all the others that preceded it. One very eloquent, intelligent student wondered why all the focus was being placed on gun control rather than mental health control.

My view is both are relevant, and neither are subject to or ever will be under very much control. Surely we can make it harder to obtain guns, especially the "mass destruction" kinds. But destruction comes in many, too many, different forms, especially for those who are seeking their fame and exit in bizarre and grotesque ways.

Similarly, I am pretty convinced that if a panel of mental health professionals interviewed the perp on Thursday, they would not likely realize the depth of his pathology, or the plan he had been plotting for some time. These are highly intelligent, strategic people who are not psychotic in the traditional sense of that term. Many have been desensitized to reality by playing too many violent video games and/or watching shoot-em up movies that our society produces serially. Surely, we can't hospitalize all video gamers, for the very small number who decide, at some critical time, to switch from their X-box controls to going wildly out of control. It is not easy to know just how much rage sits silently within a person or how it might be discharged. Some of the most successful people are volcanoes who explode positively and productively, while others go in the totally opposite direction.

Similarly, I think autism and Aspergers has received a really bum rap in all this. People who have to deal with this are more the victims of violence than the perpetrators of same. The media has been a little lame in their efforts to link this heinous crime to that spectrum of disorders. Someone with social awkwardness does not typically switch into sociopathy.

In fact, though I understand their dilemma, the media may very well be the most serious catalyst of all. To all those alienated folks who feel like losers and who feel like their lives are a total waste, there is much appeal to their grasping fame posthumously, by playing a disgraceful game of " I can top this!" Ergo the term copycat criminals. Double ergo, much as I am the eternal optimist, I am not sure there is really a way to control this nightmare that has invaded our society.

Our best defense may just be by maintaining vigilance personally and by deploying security in public places at higher levels than ever before.

I am sad for the children and families of Newtown and worried for children and families in the future. Not exactly an ideal way to head into the holidays and the new year. Time will tell and I most fervently hope I am wrong about the above—but I strongly fear I am not.

Bye For now,

Bill

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