We have experienced yet another school shooting in the USA. The 45th this year. And before the facts are clear, we hear that the shooter’s motivation may be mental illness.
When will this stigma stop? Whenever a white boy or white man shoots people, media and popular opinion nearly immediately want to say mental illness was at play.
Maybe that’s true. But in 45 cases in 2015 alone? I assure you, as a person with mental illness, that we’d much rather hurt ourselves than others, and are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than a perpetrator.
I propose that anomie – and not mental illness – is the culprit. Profiles of the shooters seem similar whether there were signs of violence ahead of time or not. A loner. Few friends. Little academic or personal success. Access to many guns or violent weapons. And I’m sure many more characteristics. Life is not going the way the man wants, and he feels out of control. The American doesn’t know where to turn to feel better about his situation. He doesn’t think of counseling or trying to find a new peer group, and these are not options presented widely in the culture or in the media he consumes. Violence is a way to let those feelings out, and is an accepted part of American culture and media.
Mental illness is not a catch-all for people acting out. Stop using it as one.