Thursday, 3 January 2013

Adam Lanza and the Newtown shooting

It has been mentioned that Adam Lanza, who recently killed his mother then went on to kill students at school, had Asperger's Syndrome (AS). I'm not going to get too deep into the issues surrounding if AS would cause a person to do these things. We all know that having AS doesn't directly equate to being a violent psychopath, however I'm not going to shy away from the fact that it might be a participating factor, especially when combined with other mental health issues. I'm sure there are already lots of blog posts on this subject already telling people that those with AS aren't violent people...but saying that those with AS are not violent is just a big a generalisation as saying that those with AS will end up on a mass shooting spree.

I think what is important to realise is that mental health isn't direct cause and effect, it's not a binary system of people with "this" do "that". No single thing causes someone like Adam to decide to shoot people dead, it's an amalgamation of a lifetime of experiences, probably combined with one or more mental health issues. However people are keen to dissect everything into constituent parts and put each part into a pot and depending on their own prejudices they blame a certain pot, as if that pot can be treated in isolation. People who are anti-gun will say it was his access to guns that did it, some people will say it was his mental health issues, some say it was his loner attitude...everyone wants to focus on one thing and blame it rather than accepting that it was a combination of lots of factors, not the result of a single thing. We have to remember that this is a person who shot his own mother in the head 4 times...I don't know exactly what his issues were, but I think it is safe to say he had them, and had a lot of them.

What prompted me to write about this issue was an article I saw in a UK tabloid newspaper called The Sun. It was an opinion-piece written by The Sun columnist Denise Welch. You might not be familiar with Denise Welch so I shall fill you in on who she is. She was an actress in soap operas on UK television and went on to appear on a show called "Loose Women" (if you're American, it is like "The View"), which is a show that popularises and celebrates misandry. Denise had an affair during her first marriage, her second marriage was to someone 15 years her junior, and during "Celebrity Big Brother" she got into a hot tub topless (at over 50 years old) to flirt with men half her age whilst exposing herself to the nation. Basically, she is what we Brits refer to as "a real class act".

Denise has also suffered from depression and is quite outspoken about mental health issues in the media and tries to use her celebrity to bring attention to these issues. Altruistic? Or just trying to get people to pity her, and to excuse her her transgressions? Regardless. She choose to do a column on this shooting, and what drove Adam to do these things. First up was his mental health issues. Denise used this as an opportunity to bring up her own depression and the stigma society has around those with mental health problems. She was quick to point out that not everyone with mental health issues are "nutters", so she dismissed that this shooting was a result of his mental health.

Right...let's take a moment to digest this. Here is a man with a known history of mental health problems who shot his own mother then went on to gun down innocent children, then kill himself...and because Denise has suffered from depression she thinks it was nothing to do with mental health issues? Is she serious? I don't want to trivialise depression, or claim that there is some form of "pecking order" to mental illnesses, but to equate depression with severe personality disorders that drive people to kill? I was speechless. Because Denise has suffered from depression and hasn't gone on a killing spree, no killing spree is the result of mental health issues?

So what does Denise blame this tragedy on? What did spur Adam on to cause this atrocity, in her opinion? Video games.

Denise, I know you think you're helping by bringing attention to mental health issues, but when your opinions are as whack as this, you're really being no help whatsoever.