On Mental Illness:My Take on the Tucson Shooting

By Jack Bragen
Thursday January 13, 2011 - 03:06:00 PM

I am deeply saddened and shocked at the shooting in Tucson, and my heart goes out to the families of the victims of it, and to the survivors. In order for a person to commit such a crime, in addition to suffering from Schizophrenia, (which I also suffer from), the perpetrator must have a complete disregard for human life, and must completely lack any shred of conscience, (unlike me).  

In my past I have had plenty of reasons to be angry or to have sour grapes. However, this hasn’t made me into a serial killer. I have taken my anger and dissatisfaction and have found healthy outlets for it, and have channeled it into the determination to do better in life.  

Millions of people in the US have a major mental illness, while only a handful become dangerous like this. 

Rather than this being a wake up call to put more restrictions on mentally ill people, it should be one in which more funding is provided for the treatment of these illnesses in a humane and caring manner. Yet, I don’t believe it would be a problem to prohibit mentally ill people from purchasing ammunition or weapons. In my day to day existence, I could not conceive of having a use for firearms. If someone gave me five hundred dollars, I would use it to buy a new laptop. 

In order for someone to be unhappy enough to commit a crime like this, that person must be socially deficient, and must lack a support network that everyone ought to have. 

Most mentally ill people do not commit crimes. 

I ascribe to the ethic that says “the best revenge is living well.” I am admittedly out for myself. And if, in my lifetime quests, anyone gets in my way, I will go around them. I might lack manners and I might not know which fork is the salad fork, but I am essentially a peaceful man because that is the person I must be. And while there are other schizophrenic people who can’t articulate that as well as I can, their nature is still essentially peaceful, in most cases. 

What happened in Tucson was partly a failure of the mental health treatment system there. The professionals with whom the shooter has come into contact were not able to discern in advance that this particular mentally ill person was potentially extremely violent. Mental health science, as far as I can tell, is developed enough to predict such a thing. Perhaps funding cuts in mental health treatment has played a role in the lack of screening that this individual has received. 

It is also difficult for our system as it currently exists to prevent crimes of this nature. Our criminal justice system relies on punishment as a deterrent to breaking the law. When you have someone who simply does not care, the prospect of punishment isn’t good enough to prevent them from committing a crime. 

Whenever there is a shooting spree like this, it gets a lot of press; and people’s perception of mentally ill people becomes that we’re all potentially homicidal. Mentally ill persons are well behaved ninety nine percent of the time, and this fact doesn’t get any press.
In short, most people with mental illness are unlike the shooter in Tucson; this man is severely socially deficient rather then merely psychotic. Most mentally ill people, unlike the perpetrator of this crime, deserve to be regarded as decent human beings.