I’ve written article for Slate about the Arizona shooting and why many are too quick to use “mental illness” as a catch-all explanation for violence.
I suspect we’re going to hear a great deal more about the issue in the coming weeks, and not all of it positive or well-informed.
This article looks at some of the relevant scientific evidence and some of the misconceptions that invariably arise when such tragic circumstances make headlines.
Shortly after Jared Lee Loughner had been identified as the alleged shooter of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, online sleuths turned up pages of rambling text and videos he had created. A wave of amateur diagnoses soon followed, most of which concluded that Loughner was not so much a political extremist as a man suffering from “paranoid schizophrenia.”
For many, the investigation will stop there. No need to explore personal motives, out-of-control grievances or distorted political anger. The mere mention of mental illness is explanation enough. This presumed link between psychiatric disorders and violence has become so entrenched in the public consciousness that the entire weight of the medical evidence is unable to shift it. Severe mental illness, on its own, is not an explanation for violence, but don’t expect to hear that from the media in the coming weeks.
Link to Slate article ‘Crazy Talk’.