Monday, January 10, 2011

Violence Does Not Automatically Equate to Schizophrenia

It's likely that the shooter of Saturday has a mental illness. It is even possible that he has schizophrenia, possibly with paranoid features. But, there is no evidence that he has ever received that diagnosis and if he has, it would be illegal for any medical professional to say so.

Actually, the first medical professional to speak to the subject of the subject's mental health is Rand Paul, the self-certified ophthalmologist recently elected to the Senate. He stated on Sunday morning that he had seen the shooter's writings and determined that he was a paranoid schizophrenic. First, not likely, second, get real.

If the legal community in Tucson had possession of the shooter's writings, it is unlikely that a junior Senator from another state would have had access to them. Even a mental health professional would be unwilling and/or unlikely to make a formal diagnosis without assessing the individual (and at that point, the shooter was not talking to law enforcement), and if they were willing to make a guess, would not couch it in those terms. If they did guess, they would use the appropriate, current, terminology which is not paranoid schizophrenic. If anyone has had access to any writings, it is certain that no diagnosis would have been made by Sunday morning from them alone.

It is too bad that mental health is a subject that continues to carry such a huge stigma in this country. People who are experiencing a mental illness are often unwilling or unable to seek help because of this stigma. Often times, families are unwilling to recognize the need, or unable to afford treatment. In homes with high religiosity in particular, the need for intervention is often denied. Just pray it away, in other words.

During the recent economic downturns, local mental health facilities have seen their budgets decimated. I reached a point in which my clients could only be seen at the County Mental Health for medication if they had a formal diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Never mind that the most dangerous disorder (to my clients) was depression. At one time, I had six clients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Each had some tendencies towards paranoia, however, they were able to function, to a point. Not one was violent, and studies show that even at the height of a delusional phase, most persons with schizophrenia do not have violent tendencies. Our biggest risk for violence is for persons under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Of course, six clients is not enough to be representative of anything, however, there are numerous studies and meta-analyses that will bear this out.

I am sure that as the days unfold, that we will discover more and more about the young man who shot the Congresswoman and others. I just think we need to step back before we make statements of fact before we know them. What we do know, is that we can be certain that this was politically motivated (law enforcement has said that they have evidence that Congresswoman Giffords was the target) although we have no idea if the shooter was a member of any group or party. My bias is that he was probably a right-wing extremist or at least attracted to that rhetoric, mainly because I have yet to hear a progressive or a Democrat use gun imagery or language, or suggest that their opponents should die, or have their followers show up at events wearing guns. Just sayin.

What do you think?

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment