Moving beyond tenuous links between mental illness and mass shootings

Studies have shown, when it comes to suicide, that restricting access to lethal means, such as firearms and pesticides, and taking other measures, such as securing bridges, have demonstrably reduced attempts and deaths. Continuing to blame mental illness is a convenient distraction from other factors likely to be associated with mass shootings, such as access to guns, toxic masculinity, and internet radicalization.

Thanks to Pan for acknowledging the incomplete mass shooter profile picture and highlighting how it stigmatizes mental illness and could make individuals reluctant to acknowledge their own conditions or seek care.

Dr. Simone Obara


Psychiatrists treat patients who face these problems without resorting to violence

As psychiatrists with considerable experience in dealing with envy, disappointment, rage and the desire for retaliation in patients who have the capacity to deal with these negative affects without resorting to violence, he was at the both important and gratifying to read Deanna Pan’s article. It statistically demonstrates the relatively small role that mental illness played in the lives of these young men who committed mass murder.

Our experience matches his description of individuals who feel deeply removed from success in their lives. They find nothing worthwhile in their present life and no chance for a better future. They just focus on a grand act of violence that will capture the audience’s attention simply because it’s so gruesome it can’t be ignored (as they feel it was). By killing school children, they believe they will become instantly important, with an impact that will last even if they are killed.

The hatred of other people’s success combined with the desire for an apocalyptic exit from life amid the chaos of schoolboy murders is obviously sick behavior, but not all sick or reprehensible behavior can be diagnosed as mental illness. Pan’s article is essential for anyone trying to understand the role of mental illness in the growing number of mass murders we have witnessed.

Dr. Henry J. Friedman

Dr. Jamie Feldman


Friedman is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Feldman is an adult and child psychiatrist.

Another factor to guard against: the copier shooter

As a psychiatrist, I salute Deanna Pan’s excellent rebuttal of the idea that mass shootings are primarily due to “mental illness.” As the article rightly notes, many mass shooters are angry young men with a variety of emotional issues and perceived grievances, but very few have clinically verified psychiatric disorders or active psychotic symptoms.

One element of mass shootings that Pan does not discuss is the phenomenon of the so-called copycat shooter. The grim publicity that usually follows a mass shooting, in which the supposed motivation of the shooter is obsessively dissected, is often seen as the path to fame by other aggrieved young men, who then seek to outdo the previous shooter. In addition to keeping guns out of the reach of these impulsive and vulnerable young people, we must also avoid glorifying mass shooters in a way that encourages further carnage.

Dr. Ronald W. Pies


The author is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine.

There should be a UN convention on the rights of young adults

There is an explanation for the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas that I have not seen mentioned in public discussion. The capitalist dynamic seems to have something to do with these shootings. Guns are profitable, but basic human needs – to learn, to have health care, in short, to grow physically, mentally and even spiritually – tend to be commodified, going to the highest bidder.

Remember the words of socialist philosopher and social activist Eric Fromm: “Life not lived leads to destruction. Our young people are just not developing these days, and many are getting frustrated and eventually acting out.

I represented the International Association of Schools of Social Work at the United Nations for over a decade, and I heard a lot about the idea of ​​a convention on the rights of young adults, similar to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Each of these two reported shooters was 18 years old. The time has come for such a human rights convention or, at least, for the United States to ratify and implement the CRC (to date it has not done so). This would then commit governments to eradicating structural violence and racism, substantial to capitalist dynamics, which play a substantial role in such atrocities.

Joseph Wronka


The author is a professor in the School of Social Work and Behavioral Sciences at Springfield College.

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