By Brian L. Grant MD
The pain of recent events bring out the best and the worst in people’s responses. It also brings out ignorance, and in the case of some advocates for avoiding looking at the downside of our gun policies, malevolent efforts to shift blame and distract us from core causes and solutions.
These recent New York Times articles lend perspective the data to the debate on the relationship between violence and mental illness in one. The other addresses autism and Asperger Syndrome. It is clear in the latter that if anything, such individuals suffer from too much empathy and caring, not sociopathic disregard. It should also be noted that the diagnosis of autism is fraught with imprecision and some controversy as to whether one being a bit strange or awkward in the case of the milder variants, warrants a diagnosis at all.
The closing paragraph in the first article referenced above, the debate on violence, states:
“All the focus on the small number of people with mental illness who are violent serves to make us feel safer by displacing and limiting the threat of violence to a small, well-defined group. But the sad and frightening truth is that the vast majority of homicides are carried out by outwardly normal people in the grip of all too ordinary human aggression to whom we provide nearly unfettered access to deadly force.”
We can’t predict human nature, or predict and prevent the dark side of individuals emerging in unpredictable ways. We can and should do what we can to make those who act out due to callous disregard for the lives of others—as well as those who would turn on themselves—less lethal.