Views on Conn. shootings: Mental illness doesn't generally lead to violence; Need for more treatment options; Helping the survivors

The New York Times: In Gun Debate, a Misguided Focus on Mental Illness
It's possible that preventing people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other serious mental illnesses from getting guns might decrease the risk of mass killings. Even the Supreme Court, which in 2008 strongly affirmed a broad right to bear arms, at the same time endorsed prohibitions on gun ownership "by felons and the mentally ill." But mass killings are very rare events, and because people with mentally illness contribute so little to overall violence, these measures would have little impact on everyday firearm-related killings (Dr. Richard A. Friedman, 12/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Guns, Mental Illness And Newtown
Since gun controls today are far stricter than at the time when "active shooters" were rare, what can account for the increase in these shootings? One plausible answer is the media. Cable TV in the 1990s, and the Internet today, greatly magnify the instant celebrity that a mass killer can achieve. … A second explanation is the deinstitutionalization of the violently mentally ill. A 2000 New York Times study of 100 rampage murderers found that 47 were mentally ill. In the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry Law (2008), Jason C. Matejkowski and his co-authors reported that 16% of state prisoners who had perpetrated murders were mentally ill (David Kopel, 12/17).

The Washington Post: We Are Not Helpless Against Gun Violence
It is sometimes argued that public policy is useless in this area because it would not have prevented this specific killing or that one. But this is not the threshold for government action. The relevant question is: What policies could reasonably be argued to reduce the likelihood and severity of such incidents over time? As in matters of public health, the goals are risk and harm reduction. This would involve better services for the severely mentally ill, who are now more likely to be found in a prison than a hospital -; as well as more stringent requirements on mental-health professionals to report possible threats. It may impose increased security burdens on schools. And, yes, reasonable gun restrictions are needed (Michael Gerson, 12/17).

The New York Times: What Drives Suicidal Mass Killers
For years, the conventional wisdom has been that suicide terrorists are rational political actors, while suicidal rampage shooters are mentally disturbed loners. But the two groups have far more in common than has been recognized. ... In fact, we should think of many rampage shooters as nonideological suicide terrorists. In some cases, they claim to be fighting for a cause -; neo-Nazism, eugenics, masculine supremacy or an antigovernment revolution -; but, as with suicide terrorists, their actions usually stem from something much deeper and more personal. There appears to be a triad of factors that sets these killers apart. The first is that they are generally struggling with mental health problems that have produced their desire to die. ... The second factor is a deep sense of victimization and belief that the killer's life has been ruined by someone else, who has bullied, oppressed or persecuted him. Not surprisingly, the presence of mental illness can inflame these beliefs. ... The third factor is the desire to acquire fame and glory through killing (Adam Lankford, 12/17).

The New York Times: Don't Blame Autism For Newtown
Let me clear up a few misconceptions. For one thing, Asperger's and autism are not forms of mental illness; they are neurodevelopmental disorders or disabilities. Autism is a lifelong condition that manifests before the age of 3; most mental illnesses do not appear until the teen or young adult years. Medications rarely work to curb the symptoms of autism, but they can be indispensable in treating mental illness like obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Underlying much of this misreporting is the pernicious and outdated stereotype that people with autism lack empathy (Priscilla Gilman, 12/17).

USA Today: How To Best Care For Survivors
Hundreds of children successfully escaped Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., this past week, leaving behind 20 schoolmates who were not so fortunate. But the survivors have also been wounded. The initial lifesaving response, fight or flight, which involves an outpouring of stress hormones triggered by the brain's fear center, gives way over the succeeding weeks to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to the National Center for PTSD, 77% of children who witness a school shooting and 35% of the kids who see violence in the area are affected. These children are headed for a rocky course filled with anger and sadness at play, feelings of alienation and low self-esteem, repeating the tragedy, and feelings that they will see warning signs before future tragedies. Luckily, psychotherapy can help these children overcome their fears and anxieties and return to a normal life (Marc Siegel, 12/17).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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