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Member since: 2001
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Why Can't Doctors Identify Killers?

This Op-Ed in the New York Times makes the points better than I ever could, about why fixating on "mental illness" in the case of horrific mass killings is pointless.


While it is true that most mass killers have a psychiatric illness, the vast majority of violent people are not mentally ill and most mentally ill people are not violent. Indeed, only about 4 percent of overall violence in the United States can be attributed to those with mental illness. Most homicides in the United States are committed by people without mental illness who use guns.

Emphasizing the point:

...we have to acknowledge that our current ability to predict who is likely to be violent is no better than chance.

Large epidemiologic studies show that psychiatric illness is a risk factor for violent behavior, but the risk is small and linked only to a few serious mental disorders...

And then the author begins to point out the real issues:

...drug and alcohol abuse are far more powerful risk factors for violence than other psychiatric illnesses. Individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol but have no other psychiatric disorder are almost seven times more likely than those without substance abuse to act violently.

And, finally:

If we canít reliably identify people who are at risk of committing violent acts, then how can we possibly prevent guns from falling into the hands of those who are likely to kill?

I think, too, that it's important to note that the author himself, a professor of clinical psychiatry, acknowldges that "As a psychiatrist, I welcome calls from our politicians to improve our mental health care system. But even the best mental health care is unlikely to prevent these tragedies."

If you factor in all of the things that contributed to this tragedy, in other words, what factors is it even possible, much less feasible or simple, to affect and control? I'll leave off here with the author's words, again:

We have always had ó and always will have ó Adam Lanzas and Elliot Rodgers. The sobering fact is that there is little we can do to predict or change human behavior, particularly violence; it is a lot easier to control its expression, and to limit deadly means of self-expression.

If pusillanimous pols, wholly cowed by the oligarchs getting rich from selling us the means to efficiently slaughter ourselves, are too blinkered to connect these dots, we must expect an endless and escalating stream of said slaughter.

To me, it's that simple.

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