Posts Tagged ‘prison’

Gun Control vs Mental Health: How Do We Stop the Killing?

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Are mass murderers mentally ill or should we pursue gun control? This is a hot topic of debate. As a person who has a career spanning 40 years in mental health I would like to answer this question by answering some common statements that I’ve seen in the news the last few days.

“We don’t need gun control, we need better mental health services”. Wrong. We need both. If we have even one dangerously murderous potential mass murderer in our community we need to restrict their access to weapons. Isn’t this obvious, Republican Party?

“Most killers are not mentally ill.” What?! First of all I’d like to see a shred of statistical evidence to back that up. This is always said in forums with no citations. Even if there were stats for this amazing statement, can we consider where the known killers are? They are in prisons, American prisons, that famously do not provide adequate mental health services to inmates. No services equal no diagnoses, and no diagnoses equal no statistics. In the 1980s I did some research about serial killers (different than mass murderers but still…) and I found that an alarming number had temporal lobe lesions and/or diagnoses of Multiple Personality Disorder (what would now be Dissociative Identity Disorder).   We do not know jack daw about mass murderers. Most kill themselves, the rest end up in prison undertreated and definitely unresearched. As a therapist, when I read the descriptions of these folks they seem easily diagnosable to me. They are definitely not pinnacles of mental health and well being.

“Most mentally ill people do not kill other people.” Yes, that is a true statement. But that is not a reversible statement. See above. It is not logical to use this statement to establish anything. Even if mentally ill people don’t kill, they still deserve treatment. Most of us who have PTSD, for example, know that if a gun were in our hands in the wrong moment we could have killed ourselves or somebody else.  I believe a lot of couple murder/suicides happen this way, as terrible accidents that could have been prevented by not having a gun in the house.

“These people are not mentally ill, they are evil.” Really, folks it is 2015 not 1515. Should we sprinkle holy water on them? All sarcasm aside, to make this statement you have to assume that people are either born evil or choose to become evil. I do not subscribe to the belief that any human is born evil. Evil is a construct. Nobody is all good or all evil.   We are born babies, open to both good and evil actions . If a human grows up and identifies as evil, in other words, service to self above all others no matter what the cost they can wreak great havoc in the world. But if they are sanely evil, they do not usually end up dead, at least not for a while, they usually end up running corporations or governments (jk) (not really). Most of these mass murderers are young men who have barely started to live, and most end up dead at the end of their rampage. Where is the sanity in that? Calling these guys evil is lazy and glib and blinds us to solutions.

I recommend we all step back, take a deep breath and acknowledge to ourselves that each mass murderer is an individual with their own reasons for doing what they did. If we hope to prevent more such actions we need to seek to understand their behaviors and address the disconnection and untreated suffering that led to such a horrible event. And we need gun control.


The Significance of the Sandusky Verdict

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This is a somber and historic day. A powerful, wealthy, well connected and protected man as been brought to justice for preying on the most vulnerable of victims. These former victims have found the personal strength and community support to stand up and support their rights and protect the community from the darkest of predators.

We all know this has been happening. Some of us have been victims of pedophiles abusing positions of power and privilege. But, until today, they have walked free, rarely even brought to trial. 

As a therapist I treated many victims of sexual predators. It may surprise you to learn that less than one quarter of my patients’ perpetrators were ever publicly accused, prosecuted or convicted. Most of the victims/survivors were still carrying the secret when they came to therapy. And there’s a good reason for this. Of the perpetrators that were convicted, most served a vastly inadequate sentence.

One of my patients was abused all of her life by her father until the courts could no longer ignore the mountain of physical evidence. He was convicted for sexual abuse after years of rape and served….wait for it….one year. Yup. One year. He went into jail when she was 12 and was released when she was 13. Needless to say she had a serious (but uncompleted) suicide attempt shortly afterward.

This is not unusual. When I worked in protective services in Massachusetts, it was well-known in the protection community that there were certain judges who would never prosecute pedophiles. They always released them with a warning or a light sentence while others were locked away for years by other judges. Why? I’ll leave you to figure that one out.

There are many predators in high places. Jerry Sandusky is only one, and only the beginning. In the past, these guys (and, yes, they are mostly guys) have been able to operate with only the slightest anxiety of ever being caught. Today all of that changes. Forever.

Predators, you have been put on notice. Your time is coming.

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