In 10 days, people across the world will be celebrating Christmas. Yet for 27 families, it won't be as much a celebration as a memorial. In Newtown, Connecticut, a 20 year-old gunman killed 26 people including 20 young children before shooting and killing himself. This tragedy has sparked many debates already, the main two being gun control and mental health support.
I got into a fierce debate with someone over Twitter last night. The woman said how mental health support was needed in the wake of the tragedy. I asked her why she automatically assumed the gunman had mental health issues. The response I received was 'He shot and killed 26 people, 20 children, his mother, his brother. What other proof do you need?' (spelling corrected)
That response really angered me. When the woman later called me 'disgusting' it didn't bother me. She had misunderstood a tweet and we both later apologised to each other and electronically shook hands. However, automatically assuming that someone who has killed 20 young children plus 6 adults is mentally ill did anger me. The killing required some planning. He would have had to have got his gun, plenty of ammunition and walked or driven to the school. That in itself requires planning. When you are mentally ill, planning is almost impossible. The level of planning to do something on this scale is beyond the planning you can do when ill.
Getting out of bed requires a small amount of planning. Even this is a challenge when ill. Washing and dressing also requires planning. Turning on a laptop requires planning. What I'm writing now required planning. These small things I have just listed are about the limit of what someone can do when ill. Getting a gun, ammunition and driving to a school to shoot your mother (I'm not sure if he did shoot his brother) and 20 young children requires a lot more planning. I personally think it requires a lot more planning that you are capable of when very ill. People could say he did it on a whim but he still had to get what he needed and travel to the school.
Even a two minute walk to the school would have had his thoughts racing. His heart would have been pounding. He would have been having a moral dilemma over whether or not he should be doing this. Is it right to do this? What if I don't succeed in killing myself? What if... what if... what if...
This is what would have happened to him had he been as severely mentally ill as people are making him out to be. Had he been acting on a whim or anger issues, he probably wouldn't have been thinking along these lines. Police are now investigating whether or not he suffered from a personality disorder but this was only released AFTER the conversation I had had last night over Twitter. If he did suffer from a personality disorder, I can't really comment on how he would have been feeling as I don't have personal experience of a personality disorder.
If he did have a personality disorder then the news will no doubt release true life stories of people who suffer similar disorders. Society will no doubt be shocked to learn that not all people with personality disorders are capable of doing this sort of thing. They will be even more shocked to discover that violence among the mentally ill is the exception rather than the rule. Society won't believe it. Mentally ill are violent surely?
Yet those of us who do have mental illness will know the true facts. People with mental illnesses are around 14 times more likely to SUFFER violence than cause violence. Murders and assaults are caused by those with mental illness around 10% of the time. So that means 90% of murders and assaults are done by those WITHOUT mental illness. And as 25% of the population have a mental illness, the statistics prove that those without mental illness are more likely to be violent than those with one.
Society seems to think that mental illness means mad and bad. The media doesn't help by only portraying negative stories about those with mental illness. Society seems to think that people with mental illness will stab anyone who looks at them. The word 'psychotic' these days is taken to mean evil. I feel like screaming every time I hear psychotic being used as a term for evil. Better synonyms for psychotic would be confused, scared or withdrawn. When in the throes of psychosis, I was working 20+ hours a week whilst studying at University. If I told the people who knew me from that time that I was in the middle of a psychotic episode at the time they would probably think I was making a joke.
At the time, I thought that the devil was talking to me and that maybe, I was the antichrist. I was scared because I thought that I would cause the destruction of mankind and I really didn't want to. With shaking hands, I would try and kill myself so that I didn't hurt anyone else. The devil (or rather, the voice) would use convincing arguments to try and get me to kill my family and even when he had convinced me that it was the right thing to do, I didn't want to do it. I still had moral dilemmas about killing anyone plus I loved my family. I didn't want to kill them.
Maybe someone will read the last paragraph and say that I was evil and still am evil. If that's the case then I'm not going to waste my breath telling them otherwise. They are either too set in their ways and unwilling to change or they are just a troll. I'm not getting irate by someone who will not change for love nor money. I'm also not 'feeding the trolls'. I pick my battles these days. Those I believe will listen I will 'battle' with. Those who refuse to believe anything other than what they currently believe I will not go near.
Maybe I was wrong getting into this 'heated discussion' last night with this woman on Twitter. After all, there are 20 dead children, 6 dead adults and a dead gunman. Those who are grieving for the dead need our thoughts and support now. Mental health stigma and gun control can wait. An article with ways we can support the whole community is here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/14/connecticut-elementary-school-shooting-how-to-help_n_2302760.html
May God bless the families of those killed and those left traumatised.