So now, according to the Washington Post, the Trump Administration is “…considering a controversial proposal to study whether mass shootings could be prevented by monitoring mentally ill people for small changes that might foretell violence.
The following is an excerpt from a well respected psychiatrist
I keep wondering how many times the White House will scapegoat those with psychiatric illnesses rather than looking at the scientific data on mass shooters. To understand the problem, consider the case of “Tyler” (a composite of many mass shooter profiles).
Tyler is a 19-year-old, single, unemployed high school dropout. He was working as a short-order cook and doing other odd jobs, but he was recently fired for showing up intoxicated at work.
Tyler has always felt like “the odd man out” and that he’s always gotten “the short end of the stick.” He posts angry rants regularly on social media, arguing that “the whole damn system is stacked against me,” and complaining that “it’s always the minorities that get the goodies, even though they shouldn’t even be in this country.”
Tyler has long held a grudge against the high school he attended, accusing the administration of “specifically targeting me for oppression and exploitation” and fantasizing about “a revolution born in blood to overthrow the elites.”
He adds, “I’m the only true-born leader who can purify this world of its filthy elements.” Tyler has made a careful study of mass shootings in the U.S. and expresses admiration for the shooters, writing, “These are the soldiers of the revolution.”
The psychiatrist goes on to say
I’ll wager that most readers will find Tyler’s feelings and beliefs frightening and disturbing. Yet there is a very good chance that, examined clinically, Tyler would not be diagnosed with a mental illness.
It’s also obvious that Tyler is not a model of mental health. On the contrary, he is what many psychiatrists would call “emotionally disturbed” — but not “mentally ill.” His world view is one of rage, resentment, victimization, and narcissistic grandiosity.
Research I Did
So after reading this I did some research, as the continuation of labeling, and the labeling of people with mental health issues is disturbing to me.
What does the best available evidence tell us about most mass shooters? A major FBI study found that only 25% of mass shooters ever had a mental illness diagnosis, and only 3 of these individuals had a diagnosis of a psychotic disorder .
To be clear: it is true that when serious mental illness goes untreated, the affected individual is at a significantly higher risk of violence than someone in the general population, though people with mental illness are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence , study’s show.
That problem will not be solved, as the White House seems to believe, with “phones and smartwatches… used to detect when mentally ill people are about to turn violent.”
There are far too many “Tylers” out there to monitor with smartwatches. And while people like Tyler may need professional help, few of them suffer from a diagnosable mental illness.