The Dispatch

We shouldn’t oversimplify mental health

Jake Brien, Commentary Editor

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America’s latest mass shooting, dubbed the Valentine’s Day massacre, prompted a nationwide outcry from students and teachers partaking in marches such as #MarchforOurLives and various school walkouts. Just like the Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, and Columbine tragedies, the public tends to paint each mass shooter as primarily driven to violence by an untreated or undiagnosed mental health diagnosis.

Mass shootings in America shouldn’t be oversimplified. Mental health, while an important topic of discussion, is not the definitive cause for America’s resurgence of mass shootings. To suggest that mental health played a part in the Parkland shooting, as well as other mass shootings, is perfectly reasonable. However, to say that simply fixing mental health in America will provide a prevention to future mass shootings is a dangerous misconception.

When examining mental health as a risk to suicide and gun violence, the 2016 researchers of Mental illness and reduction of gun violence and suicide: bringing epidemiological research to policy compared the results of epidemiological studies on mental health to the media and NRA’s claims of mass shootings being linked to mental health. Examining over 100 epidemiological studies, the researchers found themselves swimming in a sea of public misconception and media over exaggeration.

The results showed that the majority of the mentally ill are rarely violent towards others. In fact, they are more of a danger to themselves, and are highly susceptible to suicide. Furthermore, the National Institute of Mental Health Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) conducted a comprehensive study on over 10,000 individuals for factors listed as attributable risks for violence: alcohol, substance abuse, mental health, and socioeconomic status.

The ECA’s survey found that individuals within the group category of having mental illness only comprised a meager 4% of that population’s attributable risk for violence.

Significantly, the ECA’s subgroups of youths who are males of lower socioeconomic status and with problems of alcohol or drugs, were shown to be indicative of violence occurring with or without mental illness.

The researchers concluded that the actions and motives of mass shooters are separate from their psychiatric diagnosis, and that any direct causal association of these two categories overlapping isn’t supported by any definitive, current research.

Attributing outliers like Adam Lanza or Nikolas Cruz as committing their heinous crimes due to a pure mental diagnosis is an over simplification. Both were bullied, ostracized, and fascinated with guns.

For years, the parents of these troubled youths seemed to turn a blind eye to their children’s unhealthy obsession with guns, poor social lives, and violent desires.

America should stop trying to oversimplify a very complex problem.

Rather, these mass shootings should be taken as examples of how some mentally ill individuals were driven to commit atrocities perhaps due to paranoia, social isolation from peers, and frequent bullying throughout childhood.

Looking backwards, isolated individuals will spend a lot of time to ruminate and feel resentment on their humiliations of the past. Perhaps this unhealthy isolation combined with feelings of hatred led to a twisted mindset of revenge.

Managing mental illness alone won’t solve mass shootings in America. Clearly, there needs to be better prevention, but this complex problem will require even more complex solutions.

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We shouldn’t oversimplify mental health