In the U.S. mass shooters are described as mentally ill. People argue and fight on social media about what needs to be done and we scream for the mentally ill to be screened before purchasing a gun. We blame the shooters behavior on some type of mental defect. We are looking for answers. We want something or someone to blame. We want the shooter’s behavior to make sense.
As we toss around the words “mental illness” we lump a lot of innocent people into the mix. Is there something fundamentally wrong with the mind of a person that commits this type of horrific crime? Probably. Should we lump everyone that has been diagnosed and treated for anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, attention deficit disorder, or obsessive compulsive disorder into the same category as a mass murderer? No.
I don’t know what is wrong with people who go out and shoot a bunch of innocent people. There is definitely something wrong with them, we all agree on that, but what it is exactly is hard to pin down. It’s too difficult to wrap our minds around the possibility that they are just bad people. We want to analyze and figure them out. Maybe they aren’t evil. Maybe there is a reason for their behavior…maybe there is a way we can prevent this from happening again. If we just solve the puzzle and figure it out we can all feel safe again, right?
Maybe there is a solution and maybe there isn’t. I’m no expert, but in the mean time I do know that we need more words. The words “mental illness” are failing us when it comes to describing mass shooters. The brave souls fighting for their mental health on a daily basis are courageous people. They do not deserve to be disparaged with the same label we award mass murderers. That’s not the right thing to do.
We need a way to categorize this particular disorder of the mind. This is a different kind of mental illness when compared to bipolar or schizophrenia. It’s not the same as adjustment disorder or arachnophobia either. It’s more like the legal definition of insanity mixed with delusion and a breakdown in what it means to be human. It’s bigger than mental illness.
We need a new word for this particular affliction because calling mass shooters mentally ill is a disservice to all of the people who struggle with mental illness and who, despite their challenges, never harm or kill a single person in the process.