People with serious mental disorders, while more likely to commit aggressive acts than the average person, account for only about 4 percent of violent crimes over all.
The rate is higher when it comes to rampage or serial killings, closer to 20 percent, according to Dr. Michael Stone, a New York forensic psychiatrist who has a database of about 200 mass and serial killers. He has concluded from the records that about 40 were likely to have had paranoid schizophrenia or severe depression or were psychopathic, meaning they were impulsive and remorseless.
“But most mass murders are done by working-class men who’ve been jilted, fired, or otherwise humiliated — and who then undergo a crisis of rage and get out one of the 300 million guns in our country and do their thing,” Dr. Stone said.
The sort of young, troubled males who seem to psychiatrists most likely to commit school shootings — identified because they have made credible threats — often do not qualify for any diagnosis, experts said. They might have elements of paranoia, of deep resentment, or of narcissism, a grandiose self-regard, that are noticeable but do not add up to any specific “disorder” according to strict criteria.
This is a quote that is now four years old, and mental illness has come up in mass shootings more frequently during that time. However, that probably has more to do with the violence ingested by all of us on TV and media. It represents a permission of sorts to act out–everybody is doing it–and people with mental illness have less of a boundary between fantasy and reality.
Mental illness constitutes a terror for people to live with inside their heads, but mostly it stays contained there. They need our compassion and understanding and research more than any disease–this being one of the hardest to live with. You don’t know you are disordered.
To discontinue blaming them for violence is a good thing. To stop being afraid of them is a good thing. To feel compassion and help them is a good thing. To enable their addictions is not.
Twenty years ago, an estimated 30% of homeless were Vietnam veterans–many of them with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They have greatly helped our understanding of PTSD. Services for that disorder are increasing, but we still have a long way to go. Awareness is helpful.
I think one of the things we need to come to terms with in this country is our love of violence, our use of it as entertainment and the effect it has on us–get our heads out of the sand on that one. Our parenting has less boundaries and our leisure time has more violence. That is a set up for a crazy, lawless society!