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mental health mondays :: beware of "crazy people"

this is the fourth or fifth time i've started this, but i'm never happy with where it goes, so i'll just keep things brief.

i wanted to write something today on the notion of the "crazy person" who takes a gun and kills a lot of innocent people. i had been meaning to write that because there is obviously an argument about to happen as to the mental state of the man accused of mass murder in aurora, colorado a little more than two weeks ago.

and i wanted to say that it's sad that we generally hear debates about mental capacity only when it's literally a question of life and death, when something has already gone horrifically wrong, especially since people with mental disorders are statistically far more dangerous to themselves than to others, no matter what such instances may lead you to believe.

and i thought it would be good to make the point that the notion of the "lone nut" is perversely comforting, but that a mass murderer is not necessarily suffering from a mental disorder, at least not in the medical sense, and that while you might think that their actions are insane, that does not mean that they aren't perfectly aware of what they are doing, the social laws that they are transgressing and the pain that they are inflicting.

but it seems sort of pointless, because yesterday in wisconsin, someone already made those points for me. someone who doesn't appear to be suffering from any conventional mental disorder and would probably forbid his legal counsel to file an insanity defence if he had not himself been killed.

there are a lot of people with a specific political agenda who will try to convince you that these sorts of acts are always carried out by "crazy people", people who are inescapably other and against whom there is very little defence.

but that's not true. and every time you hear someone describe these killers as crazy, it's important to demand more of an answer. crazy because there was legitimately something wrong with them, in which case it warrants looking at how an earlier intervention could have stopped them? or crazy because you don't agree with what they did, possibly because it makes you or your cause look bad?

the former is a legitimate debate. the latter is sleight of hand at the expense of people who need help. and it's pretty unhealthy. almost crazy.



Comments

I totally agree. As a mentally ill person, I'm offended when people refer to those murderous folks as 'psychotic.' Psychosis is nothing more than impaired perception, seeing/hearing things that are not there or deep-rooted beliefs that are not the case (but must be possible to count). Most who have psychosis have only mild or intermittent symptoms, and they can be as simple as seeing shadows in your vision or hearing white noise but can get very specific and complex. People get this image of what it means but it is completely different.

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