by Brian L. Grant MD
As a forensic psychiatrist, I find myself as pained as the rest of society when a mass murder takes place. But like Dr. Friedman notes in this article, I am also aware that efforts to accurately identify and intervene with, in advance of a tragedy, those individuals who are going to commit such acts is impossible. For every person who commits such acts, there are many more with similar personality and mental health issues who would find such acts unthinkable, just as there are those who kill and maim with no obvious mental health impairments. One can’t confine those with a psychiatric diagnosis without casting a net that would include millions of productive individuals who pose no harm. A kinder and gentler society that focuses on empathy and kindness might make a difference in some cases, but by no means all. The most attentive parenting and caring communities may still fall short when it comes to troubled individuals with distorted senses of reality.
In the absence of the ability to meaningfully predict and intervene before troubled individuals act out, whether they have a psychiatric diagnosis or not, we may wish to look to and study those places where violent deaths are far fewer and consider the differences in place. Are these differences those of demographics, politics, economics, values, or perhaps access to firearms? We make many tradeoffs as a society to achieve certain results and goals. Considering and studying these choices in an open and objective manner may be of great value to all.