Why anger is the root cause behind mass shootings – not mental illness!

 

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The Orlando Nightclub shooting left 49 dead and 53 injured. It has been purported by the media to be the ‘worst mass shooting by a single gunman in US history’.  It was a single, tragic act of violence that resulted in the loss of many innocent lives and the upheaval of countless others.

Yet as heartbreaking as it is to hear of such horrific things, I am not writing this entry to highlight what everybody already knows – any decent human being can watch this kind of news unfold from behind the safety of their television sets and only begin to imagine the emotional turmoil that gun violence leaves in its wake. On the other hand, what many people don’t seem to immediately comprehend is just how influential these kind of events are in determining how people perceive mental illness. In fact, I would even go as far as to suggest that it is disturbing circumstances such as mass shootings  where mental illness as a subject is most prominently in the public eye.

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I have lost count the number of times that a mass shooting makes its way into the news headlines , and the predictable nature of the comments I see plastered all over the internet;

‘What an absolute nutter’

‘Psycho’

‘He must have been mentally unhinged’

All of these derogatory comments which would be deemed as socially unacceptable in any other context are thrown about recklessly and without reprimand. As understandable as it may be for people to react emotionally to this sort of tragedy, it pains me that no real thought goes into just how damaging making these kind of observations about mental illness are. Take a look at the following statistics to get an idea of where I’m coming from;

So essentially what this indicates is that, even if in some ideal world nobody with mental health issues were in possession of a firearm, it would only ever solve of 4 to 5% of gun violence in the US. Of course this is only taking into account somebody’s mental health as the sole factor – it is well known that abusing substances can and, in some cases, does lead to a tendency to engage in violent behaviour.

Warped views like this are only exacerbated when you consider that President Obama recently announced a ‘$500 million investment toward improving access to care and treatment services’, in response to public pressure on tackling gun violence. While the investment by itself can only be a good thing, it is the fact that it was carried out as part of an effort to reduce gun violence that diminishes its intended effect . The fact is, there is no single reason as to why  a certain kind of person goes out of their way to take the lives of so many.Instead, it is on a variety of factors, ranging from race and socioeconomic position, to religion and genetics, that makes a person what he or she is. Even if we, the public at large, consider that person to be a monster.

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If mental illness isn’t responsible for these mass shootings, then what is?

Despite all of this however, there always appears to be one common factor in these ‘lone wolf’ attacks on the innocent. Something so blindingly obvious, yet it’s been continually overlooked by the media as a possible motivation for why these killers do what do they do.

Anger.

Pure unadulterated anger.

This is not to say that experiencing moments of intense rage is by any means abnormal. That would be a ludicrous statement to make. Anger is one of our primary emotions. Instead what I refer to is the kind of impulsive, explosive form of anger that seemingly comes out of nowhere. You may know someone like this in your own life. They are the sort of person who cannot manage their anger in a constructive way and so smash things and scream their lungs out as a form of release.

It’s this kind of anger that the Orlando shooter , Omar Mateen frequently displayed if the comments by those that had come across him are anything to go by:

-Sitora Yusifiy, his ex wife, said ‘he beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that’

-Daniel Gilroy, a former colleague of the mass murderer, said that “I quit because everything he said was toxic,” ,and added that ‘the company wouldn’t do anything. This guy was unhinged and unstable. He talked of killing people.”

-Even his school assessment noted that he was ‘constantly moving, verbally abusive, rude, aggressive,’and sure enough he was disciplined more than 30 times in elementary and middle schools as he pursued attention and occasional conflict rather than his studies.

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While this offers only glimpses into the mind of a killer , it certainly paints the picture of someone who wasn’t just occasionally angry, but arguably fuelled by it from when he was an adolescent up until he slaughtered a group of strangers whose only ‘crime’ was their sexual orientation. Indeed, considering his reported outrage at witnessing two men sharing a kiss in full view of his son and homophobic comments , it isn’t too difficult to see how such a tragedy could have unfolded.

Now  contrary to popular belief, people with a mental illness are not by definition violent. They are far more likely to be a harm to themselves if a lethal weapon is placed within their vicinity, with ‘suicides accounted for 61% of all firearm fatalities in the United States in 2014’.  By following this line of logic, mentally ill people are more likely to be the victims of gun violence as opposed to the perpetrators.

 

Is there a way to stop these horrific attacks from happening?

Unfortunately the devastating impact of mass shootings can never be completely curbed. However there are ways of preventing this kind of gun violence from happening in the first place.

One of these things is to base restriction of access to firearms on those who have a significant arrest history, as opposed to those that have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Those who commit crimes are more likely to be subject to impulsive anger, and thus are more of a danger to the public. Sure enough, in a recent summary of studies, 80 to 90 percent of murderers had prior police records, in contrast to 15 percent of American adults overall.

It is also important to remember that just because a certain kind of person has problems controlling their anger, does not often mean that they themselves are mentally ill. In fact, most of them are not.Yet considering that 9% of the US population possess both serious anger problems and access to firearms in their place of residence, this begs the question as to why those with mental issues are being targeted and not people who actually have a history of violent behaviour.

Now my purpose in writing this was not to undertake a psychological evaluation of Omar Mateen. Rather it is to make people think twice before they associate having a mental illness with having a stronger tendency towards committing violent acts than any other member of the population. I hope I have succeeded at this.

On a final note, I will leave this brilliant quote , which not only reinforces the point of this article, but serves as a reminder of the dangers of stigmatising a vulnerable group of people based on nothing but hearsay:

‘None of us wants to think that we’re a potential murderer, a baby shaker, or a rapist; I get that. But invoking “mental health” as the sole and isolated reason for a 49-body massacre does us no favours as a society. It’s a convenient way to dismiss a very inconvenient truth: that any one of us has the potential, given the right set of circumstances, to do something terrible’

 

 

 

Emotional support helplines:

Samaritans :116 123

Sane Line:0845 767 8000

 

11 thoughts on “Why anger is the root cause behind mass shootings – not mental illness!

  1. The stigma that surrounds mental health is ridiculous. Unfortunately, the media absolutely loves to use mental illness as the cause or highlight of a tragedy. The way in which they portray mental illness is not only stigmatising mental illness but also misinforming thousands of people about a very serious subject at the same time. You can also see this behaviour in the media with religions which are viewed negatively in the eyes of society such as satanism, or with certain music genres such as metal, and of course video games.
    This really does need to change, and hopefully it will someday.

    I would also like to say that this article is not only accurate but also greatly insightful. You have talked about this subject in a way which displays a perspective from which many people will not think about. This is a great piece of work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! I did as much research around the subject as I could and I’m glad to see that this seems to have paid off.

      You’re absolutely correct. It’s so dangerous how misinformed people are. Suicide rates are only getting higher and higher, and the way in which the media portrays mental illness is contributing to stopping people getting the help they need to get better. I actually have a friend who identifies himself as a Satanist so I know where you’re coming from. You should see other people’s reactions when he tells them!

      Thanks again for reading. For the record I really like your work as well, so keep doing what you’re doing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The media never potrays mental illness in the positive. I have bipolar disorder as my main illness and I don’t tell anyone. I have heard people talk about people with bipolar disorder and it isn’t nice. I think the media does a nice job of making people afraid of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. The media have a lot to answer for. Yet so does society. People in general need to question what they are told about mental illness and realise that what they hear on the news etc is not always the truth. Until that happens the media will continue to thrive off these sensationalist headlines that misinform the public about mental illness.

      I’m sorry to hear that you have to hide it. It isn’t right. Yet I can understand why you do. I guess the only thing we can do is eliminate the stigma one step at a time.

      Also thanks so much for sharing this article on your Twitter account. It means a lot to me when people think my content is good enough to share with others 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. When people don’t understand is when fear sets in. You don’t need to share with the world. Start with people who know you, love you, and support you. There are many things we shouldn’t have to do on our own. Best wishes to you.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your positive response. You’re correct. Mental illness is a very complex subject that should not simply be generalised, never-mind paraded around as something that is dangerous and to be feared. It has to stop.

      Liked by 1 person

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