General Question

flo's avatar

Do the term "Mentally ill" and "Mass Shootings", automatically go hand in hand?

Asked by flo (12907points) December 19th, 2012

Or do you think most mentally ill just aren’t capable of well planned crimes like mass shootings or anything even close? Are most of them like Breivik from Norway, or like the ones who we generally refer to as mentally ill?

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29 Answers

janbb's avatar

Wow. Certainly most mass murders may be committed by mentally ill folk but that doesn’t mean that most mentally ill people are mass murderers! There are all different kinds and degrees of mental illness and most of them do not correlate with violent behaviour.

Bellatrix's avatar

Not in my opinion. Some people are just evil and it has nothing to do with mental illness. I think it is unfair to connect such crimes with mental illness. Breivik was found to be mentally fit to stand trial. I also don’t think all people with mental illness are incapable of planning crimes. Some may be but similarly some who would claim to have no mental problems are unable to plan well. Major generalisations in your question @flo.

YARNLADY's avatar

First, not all mentally ill people are mass murderers. In fact a very small, statistically insignificant number of them are.

Second, it would seem that any mass murderer has to be mentally ill, by definition. However, some people could label this kind of behavior evil. It is certainly aberrant.

tranquilsea's avatar

Mentally ill people are not more likely to commit crimes than “normal” people. They are, in fact, more likely to have crimes committed against them. They are more likely to have violence visited upon them, either by themselves or by other people.

JenniferP's avatar

Only God can judge him but I know what you mean. The only true excuse for a crime like that is true insanity. I think that just because someone had ADHD and Asperger’s (I am told he had those) that doesn’t excuse such horrendous actions.

josie's avatar

Not all mentally ill people are mass murderers.
On the other hand, all mass murderers are mentally ill. What other symptom of mental illness are you folks looking for, if not the capability of committing mass murder?
The possibility that the issue is up for debate is in and of itself a symptom of a problem.
What a world.

flo's avatar

In the media, the speech of (the president?) and others, the general public, constantly talking about mentally ill people in the context of the mass shootings It is as if people are missing the fact that most of the mentally ill aren’t at all responsible for this kind of act.
@Bellatrix @JenniferP I think you got the opposite of the point of my OP.
I just mean there must be a different term that excludes the ones who are harmless. They must feel attacked.

Bellatrix's avatar

Your question is unclear or at least it was to me. In response to your follow up point, while there should be discussion about how to best support those with mental health problems the suggestion (whoever makes it) that there is an automatic connection between violent crime and mental illness is wrong. It’s easy to assume someone who picks up a gun and shoots a number of people must be mentally ill but that’s not necessarily true. In the latest case, the young man is reported to have Asperger’s Syndrome – but that’s not usually indicative of violent behaviour as far as I know.

I think it’s unfair and wrong to link these crimes to mental illness. Some of the people who commit them may have a mental illness but it can’t be assumed all do.

I do think as a side comment more support for those who do have a mental illness is needed, certainly in my country. Not because I am concerned they will commit violent crime but just because I believe if we have a healthy society it benefits us all. I also think there should be no stigma attached to mental illness and people who need medical help should get it, whether their ailment is physical or psychological. I also think parents who are struggling with trouble young people should have access to counsellors and support. This whole final paragraph is really a separate topic though.

JenniferP's avatar

I would have never thought about it if you hadn’t pointed it out. I believe we do need to be politically correct but I don’t get obsessive about it.

flo's avatar

What do you think of This woman who was on her way to doing in her third husband Is she mentally ill or not?

Bellatrix's avatar

I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist. I could not judge. I don’t think anyone else should judge her from a newspaper article either.

marinelife's avatar

Certainly not. The amount of mass shootings are infinitesimal compared to the number of mentally ill people there are.

flo's avatar

@Bellatrix I was just giving an example, not necessarily about her.

Bellatrix's avatar

@flo, you said “Is she mentally ill or not?” If that isn’t asking us to judge her mental state, I don’t know what is.

Nobody should be judging this woman’s mental state apart from a psychiatrist or psychologist who has access to her and her history.

wundayatta's avatar

This question is pretty offensive—implying that the mentally ill are prone to such acts of evil. This is outrageous! An apology is in order.

The people who commit mass murders are highly deviant, which is the definition of mentally ill. Their minds work very differently from the rest of us, including those with diagnoses of mental illness. You can call them sociopaths or whatever you want, but the fact is they don’t think like most of the rest of us. The vast majority of people could never even consider an act of mass murder, much less plan it and carry it through.

The answer to your question is an unequivocal NO! That would be like asking does blond hair and mass murder go together because a mass murderer was blond. It is totally specious reasoning.

flo's avatar

@Bellatrix In the context of this thread, I mean when it is a case of mass shootings the term “mental ilness” is bandied about and when it is killing people quietly, not so much.

@wundayatta You’re hilarious, as usual.

Bellatrix's avatar

I’m out of this thread. I find it as offensive as @wundayatta does. I don’t find his post hilarious. I find it absolutely right. Pity you can’t see that @flo.

flo's avatar

@wundayatta so, you didn’t read detail part of the OP, and then my follow up ”.....It is as if people are missing the fact that most of the mentally ill aren’t at all responsible for this kind of act.” You’re presenting that you only read the title part of the OP? That is what is hilarious.

wundayatta's avatar

NO, I didn’t see that in your question. Perhaps you have a different version posted than you meant to post. Sorry. If you want to apologize for the question, then I might be persuaded you didn’t mean it and that something you said in subsequent conversation trumps the question. But I don’t see any repentance in you. I think you are trying to be inflammatory, and are finding some subtle way to bash the mentally ill. This is not helpful. It is unethical.

flo's avatar


submariner's avatar

I thought the point of the question was to ask whether anyone who commits such a pointless atrocity as the Newtown killings must be insane, and therefore not fully responsible for their actions, or is it possible that a completely (or sufficiently) sane person could choose to commit evil on this scale, and would therefore be fully responsible for their actions. I’ve been wondering that myself.

So, in brief, the point is not to ask whether all mentally ill people are potentially mass murderers, but rather to ask whether all mass murderers are mentally ill. If that is in fact the point, the headline could have been worded better, since “hand in hand” suggests that the connection goes both ways, when only one way was intended.

If that was what was intended, I’m sorry to say I don’t have an answer.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Speaking as a person with a mental illness, this question is disgusting and outrageous. It brings up revulsion in me that is hard to describe. I am shocked at the question’s title and details.

Barbs666's avatar

Mental illness is a very broad term for a very large spectrum that is hard to define. I dont think you have to be mentally ill to commit murder at all.

submariner's avatar

Actually, the question (apart from the headline) seems to suggest that most mentally ill people cannot commit mass murders that involve extensive planning.

Paradox25's avatar

I’m going to give a very fringe opinion here on why some people may do horrible things, and perhaps I’m siding with Christians on this one: possession by evil spirits. Probably many on fluther are going to laugh at this, but there were quite a few cases where people were able to speak foreign languages expertly, languages they’ve been found after careful investigation to have never learnt.
The ability to speak or write a language that one has never been taught to learn is called xenoglossy. Some of these people with these abilities (pertaining to xenoglossy) are diagnosed with multiple personality disorder, or other mental disorders.

There were quite a few cases that I’ve read about relating to xenoglossy. One prominent case that comes to mind is the Billy Mulligan case. Mulligan was convicted of rape in the late seventies, and was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. Many critics have stated that this is nonsense, but when I’d read the skeptical rebuttals I’d noticed that they had left out a few inconvenient details: one of Mulligan’s personalities was known as Abdul, and when this ego took over Billy was able to read and write in perfect Arabic. Another one of Mulligan’s personalities was named Ruben, and this ego was able to speak perfect Serbo-Croat, and do this with a heavy Slavic accent.

I’m not claiming that fraud was absolutely ruled out in many of these cases, but after reading some of them I’m convinced that fraud as an answer to some of them are highly unlikely. There are more cases of alleged xenoglossy, even more amazing than this one in my opinion, but I wanted to focus on Mulligan since it was a unique criminal case.

JenniferP's avatar

@Paradox25 His name is Billy “Milligan.” I read that book.

flo's avatar

@submariner thank you, that is it exactly.

What prompted the question is how much we hear in the media “mass shooter…. the mentally ill (I don’t know why it seems to be mass shooters in particular) as if it is a given that the mass shooter must be mentally ill. I gave the example of Breivik in my detail to show that I think it is a wrong automatic association to make.

flo's avatar

I was thanking @submariner for showing that the detail part of my OP shows what my question says. “Actually, the question (apart from the headline) seems to suggest that most mentally ill people cannot commit mass murders that involve extensive planning.”
I want to add here that the vast majority don’t have the desire either not just the capability.

But I thank everyone for your answers, minus @wundayatta and whoever else is misunderstanding my OP on purpose.

JenniferP's avatar

@Paradox25 Wasn’t that personality of his named Ragen, not Ruben? Sorry for being picky. I just remember the book.

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