Is It Time To Be Politically Incorrect About The Mentally Ill?

  • Last week, a 15-year-old girl walking home from a friend’s house in an affluent Las Vegas suburb was attacked, raped twice, and stabbed more than 40 times by a 19-year-old predator.  He then set fire to her corpse and left it in the desert. 
  • This murder was similar to the 1997 rape and murder of little Sherrice Iverson, who was unfortunate enough to be left unattended in a casino all night while her father gambled.  A then-18-year-old playfully made contact with her, then took her into a bathroom where he ended up twisting the 7-year-old’s neck. 
  • Also last week, a man walked into an IHOP in Carson City, Nevada’s capital, and fired at random with an assault rifle, killing four people–including three uniformed National Guardsmen–before killing himself.
  • And let’s not forget the shooting in Arizona this last January which killed six people, including a judge and a little girl who would have turned ten years old today, on the anniversary of 9/11. 

These four tragedies have something in common.  They were all perpetrated by people who were known by those around them to be mentally ill.  Not just weird or depressed or even morbid, but violent ticking time bombs. 

Jared Lee Loughner has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, to the surprise of nobody who knew him.  The IHOP shooter “had a history of mental health issues and had been on long-term medication.”  Jeremy Strohmeyer, much like Loughner, had an open history of serious drug abuse.  He also had niche pornography fetishes and a biological mother with chronic mental illness, unknown to his adoptive parents.  And the killer of a Las Vegas high school freshman this week had a documented history of sexual assault from his own time in high school.

He attacked a girl a few years ago in a school bathroom while I was teaching in a classroom less than a hundred feet away.  The school expelled him–almost a miracle these days–and the police arrested him, but even all that was only temporary, and the system let his evil keep gestating. 

Three of these four killers were in public schools fairly recently, and I have to wonder if they could have been controlled or stopped there, if our schools weren’t so neutered by aggressive, pushy parents who bully and threaten their way into all the special treatment they want.  Schools have been cowed into a corner, turned into toothless nannies by a society so emboldened by entitlements that nobody seems to have any compunction about demanding that schools never do anything they don’t like. 

Ron Clark, a school reformer and author, recently wrote for CNN: “I had a child cheat on a test, and his parents threatened to call a lawyer because I was labeling him a criminal. I know that sounds crazy, but principals all across the country are telling me that more and more lawyers are accompanying parents for school meetings dealing with their children.”  Ladies and gentlemen, this is the environment that we all have in common, and which now nurtures the psychoses of future killers.  It has to stop. 

We know the warning signs, we know the habits and red flags, but we lack the backbone to treat anyone differently, ever.  The sad reality seems to be that there are some that we know we have to confront, or isolate, or regulate socially, or even legally, to keep them away from others, and especially away from children. 

We often wring our hands over profiling people based on race or religion, but it’s long overdue to start talking about keeping a closer eye on the mentally ill.  I know we’re supposed to be compassionate about the unfortunate–and what could be more random, undeserved, and even scary and mysterious than mental illness?–but how many more such horrors will we have to read about before we admit that there are larger things at stake than hurting feelings?

A compassion that might come at the expense of an innocent person’s life is no compassion at all. 





5 comments on “Is It Time To Be Politically Incorrect About The Mentally Ill?

  1. As a loyal reader and as your friend, I am saddened by this post. It reinforces old stereotypes about the mentally ill. The main stereotype being that there is a link between mental illness and violence. This idea has been refuted by scientific studies (

    “A 2009 analysis of nearly 20,000 individuals concluded that increased risk of violence was associated with drug and alcohol problems, regardless of whether the person had schizophrenia. Two similar analyses on bipolar patients showed, along similar lines, that the risk of violent crime is fractionally increased by the illness, while it goes up substantially among those who are dependent on intoxicating substances. In other words, it’s likely that some of the people in your local bar are at greater risk of committing murder than your average person with mental illness.”

    Unfortunately, as your post demonstrates, scientific studies don’t always change entrenched ideas.

    The implications of your post raises other questions that I find sad: If a child has a biological mother with a mental illness, is that child not worthy of adoption? To follow that further, should mentally ill people be encouraged not to have children? In my mind, the answer to these questions is obviously no.

    Full disclosure: I have bipolar disorder. I am not and never have been violent. I am a devoted husband and proud father.

  2. I certainly see your point which is why I support the Treatment Advocacy Center, which calls for better assisted outpatient treatment and more appropriate laws relating to involuntary commitment. I also have a MI and am the parent of a son with a MI. Like the majority of the MI, he has no proclivity toward violence and most crimes are commmited by people without a MI. That said, howwever, I am in favor of being proactive re MI, and getting people help before they do anything harmful and screw political correctness. Unfortunately, the laws have swung so far that it is extremely difficult to get help for someone who doesn’t want it.

  3. Why not being politically incorrect and saying that closing institutions that could take care of some of these people, and the overall depletion of ways to assist the actually mentally ill.

    You describe some horrible events. What these descriptions do not tell us is what their actions had to do with their presumed mental illness.

    First of all, it is debatable, whether depression is a mental illness, but if it is, most depressives are passive-aggressive, if anything. More than likely these guys had substance abuse in common, and we know that drugs, especially alcohol, is very much related to violence, unlike depression.

    Then, if we think of the really mentally ill, we could look at schizophrenics. A paranoid schizophrenic might attack you if s/he thinks you’re trying to do something to her/him, but it is very rare. Most schizophrenics are in their own world, trying to live with their symptoms. They are demonstrably less likely to attack you than the general population.

    From a logical point of view, it is quite fallacious to draw general conclusion from singular occurences. As long as you haven’t ruled out substance abuse or things like paedophilia (likely a personality disorder rather than a mental illness), you haven’t really come close to really knowing what caused them to do what they did.

    Yes, we should start offering voluntary treatment to people with mental illness–too often we wait for that singular event that causes us to involuntarily commit someone for the rest of their lives. And too often the cause of action was never mental illness.

    A schizophrenic, even in psychosis, is rarely a dangerous person, as long as you don’t deliberately aggravate their delusions. The word psychotic is all too often used to describe a sociopath.

    And I’d bet most of your examples are just that. Sociopaths. Lack of empathy, lack of social skills, lack of parental care, etc.–these things can mount.

  4. Everybody’s ideas here contribute perspectives that flesh out my topic–clearly, I need to address it in more detail. I’ll need to do this when I have more time, but I think I can say that, while there still may be some disagreement, there is also some common ground, and we needn’t be offended with each other here. After all is said and done, there is probably a simple approach here that will make sense to all, based on the various factors raised in your comments. Thanks, all.

  5. I happen to have a brother who suffers from aspergers and ADHD both were diagnosed by a psychiatrist how has been practicing for many years. Although he doesn’t not suffer from violent impulses he Is far from normal though I hope the world will treat his with kindness as he matures more slowly then the rest of his peer group. I also hope he and the rest of the mentally abnormal will aspire to function well within society and make friends. I do however believe that there is a rising number of mentally abnormal people who may be violent, it’s up to expert to differentiate who must be contained to protect the public.

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