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mental health mondays :: the end of agency?

i'm a little shocked at how much of my social media news feeds in the last two days have been taken up with discussions on whether or not santa barbara mass murderer elliot rodger was mentally ill. this is seriously being debated, like people who aren't mentally ill go out and start shooting up random folks and then themselves for shits and giggles. i'm sorry if that remark seems inappropriate, but it doesn't strike me as any more inappropriate than asking if a young man who writes an angry manifesto and then takes his [legally purchased and registered, but that's another post] gun and goes off to kill strangers has a mental illness. let's put this to rest: yes, someone who does this sort of thing is absolutely sick; their delicate mental balance has been thrown off; their brain is not functioning in the way it should; they are in need of professional assistance.

to that last point, rodger apparently did seek professional assistance, which is a pretty clear indication that he knew something was wrong and that at some point, he wanted to do something to fix it.

if that last sentence makes you think that you should have some sympathy with the poor, awkward boy who clearly had difficulty with women and probably in a lot of other social situations as well, check yourself. many, many people have bouts or long-term battles with mental illness. statistics indicate that about one out of every four americans will suffer from some form of mental disorder during their lifetime and the vast, vast majority of them will not commit any sort of violent crime, let alone something of this magnitude.

among the insults levied at people with mental illness, one of the worst has to be that they have no control over what they are doing. what rubbish. the vast majority of them have a lot of control over what they are doing. they may struggle with it more. those with the most serious conditions can lose a great portion of their ability to control how their mind works and their ability to function in their society, but even in those cases, this is the result of degeneration [often caused by lack of access to mental health resources, but again, that's another post]. people don't spring from the womb ready to commit mass murder. even children who show early signs of sociopathy are most often shaped by early trauma.

there is no evidence that elliot rodger suffered from any delusional psychosis: he was not bipolar [to the extent that he suffered delusions], nor was he schizophrenic, nor did he appear to have a dissociative disorder. he was fully present in his actions and the fact that they were repugnant or warped to most people [i hope] doesn't put them on the same level as the person who believes their neighbours are alien spies sent to poison them slowly by playing specific albums. while he was seeking help, he also immersed himself in the most dangerous sort of community for his mindset- one that reinforced and enabled his worst thoughts and behaviours by allowing him to blame others for his problems. while he sought treatment through traditional medical means [and it's important to note that his family's financial advantages meant that he had access to a level of care that many others would never have], it wasn't working for him.

i can see why. going through therapy, whether as an alternative to or in conjunction with medication, is a long, dry process of introspection. there aren't shortcuts and if you're not willing to partner in the work with your therapist/ psychologist then it isn't going to be of any use. you have to be completely honest with yourself and willing to recognise behaviour and thought patterns that have been crippling you and you have to spend the time learning how to break them down and/ or reverse them. it's slow at the best of times, which is assuming that you've found a therapist whose methodology works for you. many people i've known have spent years even getting to that point, which is really the starting line.

elliot rodger may not have liked doing that work, but he had the opportunity to do it. he had family members who wanted to see him get better, family members who could afford to support him through a long recovery process and who could make sure that his basic needs were met so that he could have focused on solving his mental problems. he was young enough that damaging thought patterns were likely less engrained; most mental illness presents around puberty and, like a lot of diseases, it's easier to deal with when it's caught early. he had no one depending on him to provide or care for them, again clearing the way for him to focus on getting and feeling better. he could have succeeded.

that he failed to rehabilitate himself is not a consequence of his mental illness, it is a consequence of his choices. he chose to listen to the online noise that told him he was a victim of women and a society that supposedly caters to feminism [it doesn't, i promise]. he chose to act out his frustrations in the most horrifying way. he could have chosen to empower himself by fighting his demons, but instead he gave into them. that's on him, not his illness.

so let's stop talking about whether or not elliot rodger was mentally ill. let's talk about why that doesn't excuse him.

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