More food for though in our newspapers about mental illness and violence, this time in the Washington Post: Predicting violence is a work in progress . I would call that article ‘reporting without bias against the mentally ill is a work in progress’.
These are my highlights from the article:
..to try to figure out whether there’s a link between mental illness and violence…Using an ever-changing tool kit of theories and questionnaires, they’ve [psychologists and psychiatrists] made some progress.
You know that your mental health is in good hands when “they” base their assessments, not on science, but on “an ever-changing tool kit of theories and questionnaires”.
An aside: it is well-known by those who work or have worked in the mental health field (like me) that there has been animosity between ‘regular’ medicine doctors and psychiatrists since the birth of the psychiatric profession many many eons ago. [It feels as if it was yesterday that psychiatry was born. It was actually in the 1800s.] Medicine doctors don’t consider psychiatry as medicine nor psychiatrists as doctors, in part because of these ‘tool kits’ used by the psychiatrists. I’m not inventing this.
If I were a psychiatrist or psychologist, I would be offended and shamed by that quote up there.
But, it does matter who wrote the article. The Wapo tells us it was
“David Brown, a journalist and physician, has been a staff writer for The Washington Post since 1991…He worked as a reporter at The Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth… before entering the Medical College of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1987. He works four days a week at the Post and two-thirds of a day at a general internal medicine clinic in Baltimore supervising third-year medical students.”
It’s like a double-whammy of expertise. It’s enough expertise so that you can sit comfortably in your arm-chair or wherever with your cup of coffee and leisurely read the article and don’t bother to question the ‘information’ you are reading. I mean, really, there’s no need for you to question the following paragraph with important insight into the mysterious profession of guessing-who-will-be-your-next-mass-killer [highlights by me]:
It’s now fairly clear, for example, that people with severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and some personality disorders, are more likely to commit violent acts than others.But the risk is small. [!!???] The vast majority of mentally ill people won’t commit assault, rape, arson or homicide, although the risk rises sharply among those who abuse drugs and alcohol.
I don’t doubt that you find bothersome my sarcastic attitude here but, how can I not be sarcastic after reading that!? That was written by a physician. It’s presented to you as ‘authoritative’! Did you catch the contradictions in there?:
- “It is now fairly clear”. Is it? Is it taken as a ‘fact’? What in social science (crime) or psychiatry, the least ‘exact’ branches of ‘science’, is taken as immutable?
- “are more likely to commit violent crimes than others. But the risk is small” ?? You see, that’s the danger of mixing ‘journalism’ with ‘medicine’, you don’t know which one is talking. Is the statement that “the mentally ill are more likely to commit violent crimes” a ‘report’ or a medical analysis by the author? Which one takes credit for the contradicting statement that, despite the scary ‘fact’ that the mentally ill are more violent than any other, “the risk is small”?
- then, after scaring you with the boogeyman, he tries to calm you down with the report or diagnosis that “the vast majority of mentally ill people won’t commit assault,”
- then he switches to the drug addict as the boogeyman, it was not the schizophrenic, it was the one-arm drug dealer/abuser. But we have already internalized in our uncritical reading that it is the mentally ill who are the danger to society even though “the vast majority of them” will not commit a crime.
All of the above is not the scary part of the article. This is:
These insights [the ones I just mentioned above] are proving useful to psychiatrists, psychologists, judges, school administrators and others who must decide whether someone seems too dangerous to be left alone.
If you are a blonde and read that judges are going to incarcerate any blonde who come in front of them because they read some study in Psychology Today that says that blondes are more prone to violence, wouldn’t you be scared? I bet you’ll dye your hair black.
Even when someone has a history of threatening behavior, the killing of innocent people can’t necessarily be prevented.
The sentence starts with “even”. You, or at least I did, would expect that the second part of the sentence would deny the first: ‘even’ though some people has a history of threatening behavior…they are not threatening, or something like that. But nooooo.
THE ANATOMY OF STEREOTYPES AND STIGMA
His conclusion is that a history of threatening behavior will lead to killing of innocent people because (changing the order of the sentence) killing innocent people can’t be prevented by a HISTORY of threatening behavior. It’s an illogical sentence. It’s a good thing that I’m not into conspiracy theories ’cause otherwise I would think that this is a black psy op piece of journalism. Either that or that guy is not a good writer. He should stick to medicine. No, forget that.
Look, it simply plants in your mind, in an awkward sentence, that a history of threatening behavior leads to mass killing. Then your brain works the association and you find yourself demanding the involuntary commitment of people with such ‘history’. That’s the anatomy of stereotypes and stigma: speculation as ‘science’ and ‘authoritative’.
BANKS AND “AGGRAVATING FACTORS”
Of course, there’s no mention to life in our highly violent and corrupt society. Mental illness and violence are discussed in the article and in general totally outside of the society in which it exist, as if our complex social and political lives have nothing to do with either of them.
The author talks about drug addicts and violence as something naturally related to each other. No mention to how an aggravating factor is the fact that our big banks, especially the HSBC, are laundering money for the illegal drug cartels that inundate our communities with drugs. Two weeks ago Reuters reported that the HSBC paid over one billion dollars to avoid prosecution for the laundering of money “which excluded $670 billion in transactions from the monitoring systems” for the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels.
If drug addiction is a cause of the killing of innocent people and the big banks help to bring the drugs that keep you enslaved, why isn’t the connection between the big banks and ‘aggravating factor’ in the killing of innocent people made in the article?
This category is totally based on questionnaires, and the definition of ‘violence’ or ‘violent’ is not given in the article.
Look, this article is a crude job, in my eyes, at stigmatizing the mentally ill. One of the problems for the society at large about stigmatizing is that it puts the focus on the wrong place. For the recipient of that stigma, precious life and freedom is at stake. For society at large, progress and solutions get lost in the fog of war against the sick ‘individual’.
We have rampant corruption in our higher political and bureaucratic institutions and in our corporate world. We live in a world where entertainment is violent. In the USA you can hardly make money with a movie that does not include violence and car chases. Movies like the French ‘Three Colors’ is considered boring here by the masses because it has no car chases nor violence or ‘free’ nudity.
That this is a crude attempt to stigmatize the mentally ill is seen in the pictures it printed of the recent mass killers with their frozen mad stares snared at the moment of blinking or some other physical reaction to the surroundings; and in the illogical and contradictory sentence constructions of the article to force an association that, under serious scrutiny, does not exists.