Tag Archives: mental health


Want to invade Mexico? The option is on the table if America re-elects Donald Trump (a/k/a “the former guy” or TFG). According to the Washington Post, 

former president Donald Trump is preparing battle plans to attack Mexico if he regains the White House. This is only the latest escalation of saber-rattling in the wake of the recent kidnapping and killing of Americans in Mexico. Former U.S. attorney general William P. Barr, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (Tex.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) are among those calling for U.S. military action in Mexico to take on drug cartels.

The author of the essay acknowledges that the Mexican cartels need to be stopped. But–as he points out–this isn’t a problem Washington can bomb its way out of.  

There is a way to accomplish that goal, however. The U.S. could: cut off the gun pipeline that arms the cartels.


I rarely address America’s gun crisis, because I know what every sentient citizen knows: the “Second Amendment” purists (a/k/a gun nuts) will remain unmoved by death and/or data, and too many of the lawmakers elected by the majority of Americans who want rational regulation are spineless Republicans unwilling to buck the NRA. My two-cents worth is highly unlikely to resolve the stalemate between America’s delusional cowboys and those of us who recognize that the problem is the ubiquity of weapons.

That said, my cousin–a medical doctor I often cite on this platform–sent me an op-ed he recently published in his local paper, and it is worth sharing, because it addresses the predictable effort by pro-gun advocates to divert attention from weaponry to mental illness. 

With his permission, here it is, in its entirety:

The spate of recent firearm deaths at schools and public places has rightfully triggered a lively public debate. Among all the clatter, we often hear politicians stating that we can reduce firearm deaths, such as those occurring in public places, if we would simply employ better detection and management of mental illnesses. But this is a flawed concept: At best it would solve only a tiny fraction of the problem, estimated at approximately 3-5%. In reality, most people who are violent are not mentally ill, and most people who are mentally ill are not violent. Although seemingly logical at its surface, let’s clarify this issue further by applying scientific/numerical analysis.

Since 2006, there have been approximately 550 mass shootings in the United States, resulting in 2,900 people shot and killed. Since most of these shootings are perpetrated by single gunmen, this means that roughly 550 (or slightly more) individuals carried out these heinous acts.

According to the National Institute of Health, the prevalence of major mental illnesses in the U.S. is approximately 4.2% of the entire population, meaning that about 10.4 million people harbor serious mental disorders. Even if one assumes that this entire group of 550 killers were mentally ill, which is clearly false, this total number would constitute an infinitesimally small percentage .0053 of all those suffering from mental illness. Unless we had a fail-safe method of detecting 100% of individual would-be killers from this large group of mentally ill, our ability to detect a future killer remains at nearly zero, which represents the proverbial needle in the haystack. Supporting these data, all mental health professionals freely admit that it is virtually impossible to predict accurately—nowhere near 100%—of those with known mental disorders that are likely to perform such acts of violence. Compounding this problem even further, laws in this nation generally preclude forced detention of mentally ill individuals that have not yet performed any act of violence, for more than brief periods. What this means is that, given these extremely daunting numbers, detection and treatment of those with suspected mental illness in the effort to ward off gun violence is a virtual impossibility, notwithstanding the pronouncements by many ill-informed politicians.

It all boils down to a simple bottom line: Major efforts must be aimed primarily at sensibly limiting everyone—whether or not mentally ill—from freely obtaining firearms capable of killing—especially of the mass variety.

We must allow numeric principles to guide us, not a bunch of mercenary political figures, often under the thrall of the NRA, who wish to apply so-called “common sense measures” to control this national scourge! Detection and treatment of mental disorders is indeed a laudable goal, but not in the effort to reduce firearm deaths!

One of those inconvenient data points: Mass shootings in the United States have tripled since the assault weapons ban lapsed.

If we are going to talk about the role mental illness plays in this mayhem, we might start with TFG and move on to the lunatics arguing that arming everyone in sight will make us safer.




Deprivation And Revenge

Back in the day, we used to feel sorry for the geeky guys who couldn’t get a date to the prom. These days, some of those geeks have gotten together, created a “movement” of sorts, and labeled themselves “Incels,” short for involuntary celibates.

And they’re dangerous.

The Guardian recently ran an article  about a report from the U.S. Secret Service, detailing the growing threat  posed by these men who are angry over their inability to form what the report delicately terms “intimate relationships” with women. (Although the Secret Service is best known for protecting US presidents, the agency also examines and implements behavioral threat assessment programs designed to “identify and intervene with those who pose a risk of engaging in targeted violence”.)

The report enumerated the troubling and telltale behaviors of the Incels, which included the sending of concerning and threatening communications, and the posting of “concerning” online content.

Characteristics of Incels include a history of interpersonal difficulties, a history of being bullied, financial instability, and failed life aspirations.

As a case study, the Secret Service examined a 2018 shooting at a yoga class in Tallahassee, Florida, in which a man killed two women and wounded six.

“The attacker was motivated to carry out violence by his inability to develop or maintain relationships with women, along with his perception of women’s societal power over men,” the report said.

The gunman, 40-year-old Scott Paul Beierle, exhibited numerous warning signs including a history of inappropriate and criminal behavior toward women and girls.

Steve Driscoll, a lead research specialist at NTAC, said: “During his teen years, the attacker was accused of stalking his classmates and he wrote stories that centered around violent themes.

“One of those stories was 81 pages long and involved the protagonist murdering several girls before committing suicide. The female characters in the story that were killed represented the attacker’s actual classmates from his high school, but he slightly changed the names in his writing.”

Beierle was arrested three times for groping women and was called “Ted Bundy” by his roommates, in reference to a notorious serial killer who targeted women.

On the day of the shooting, Beierle left a note in his hotel room that said: “If I can’t find one decent female to live with, I will find many indecent females to die with. If they are intent on denying me life, I will have no choice, but to deny them life … Their arrogance, indifference and treachery will finally be exposed and punished.”

Other examples cited in the report included the Santa Barbara killings in 2014, in which a 22-year-old  killed six people and injured 14.  (The perpetrator had previously lamented his inability to find a girlfriend and spewed his contempt for women and interracial couples), and the 2020 murder of the son of Esther Salas, a federal District Court judge, by  a man who described himself as an “anti-feminist lawyer” and warned that “manhood is in serious jeopardy in America.” (Senator Josh Hawley evidently agrees with him...)

While research has yet to identify a profile of those among the Incels who are likely to engage in violence, it has pinpointed a set of concerning behaviors that are commonly displayed before violent or deadly assaults. That said, the report emphasized that misogynistic violence isn’t restricted to the sorts of high-profile incidents that make headlines.

Rather, “misogyny frequently appears in more prevalent acts of violence, including stalking and domestic abuse”. As a result, the report said, responses to threats need to be collaborative between law enforcement, courts, mental health providers and domestic violence and hate crime advocacy groups.

Police will often feel that they can’t intervene in a situation until or unless a law has been broken. Research, however–especially research focused on communities that are successfully coping with these behaviors–has found that the presence of a trained professional in threat assessment can avert many of these assaults by identifying warning signs and deploying the proper resources.

In the wake of the COVID pandemic, we’ve been hearing a great deal about the need for additional mental health resources. That need has clearly grown, but groups like the Incels, QAnon believers, Neo-Nazis and the like were part of the American landscape well before the advent of the pandemic, demonstrating that the inadequacy of mental health resources is not new.

Of course, that shouldn’t surprise us. The United States doesn’t even ensure access to physical health care…


I Can’t Wrap My Head Around This….

As if the ongoing disaster that is the Republican presidential clown car wasn’t doing enough damage to the image and prospects of the once-Grand Old Party (not to mention the country), I recently came across two articles about the party’s lawmakers that made me ask not “what were they thinking?” but “was anyone thinking?”

Last week, Congressional Republicans passed a measure that would have blocked EPA enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The President vetoed it, but I remain absolutely stunned that—in the midst of the disaster in Flint, Michigan, and the national outcry over that massive failure of government oversight—such a bill would even be introduced, let alone passed.

Unsurprisingly, the effort unleashed headlines like “As Flint, Michigan Suffers from Contaminated Water, Republicans Attack Clean Water Act.”

Thanks to an ill-conceived effort to save an estimated $100 per day (followed by 18 months during which the Governor’s office responded to complaints from citizens by telling them the water was just fine although they knew it wasn’t), Flint’s children now face impaired cognitive development, behavioral problems, and nervous system damage. Meanwhile, estimates of the costs to correct the entirely man-made problem run into the billions.

And yet.

In the midst of this crisis, and just days before the state of emergency was declared, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote an op-ed attacking the EPA’s Clean Water Rule. In the op-ed, Ryan declares that the stricter rules (finalized by the EPA this past summer which gives the agency authority to regulate smaller bodies of water to limit pollution) are a prime example of government overreach and that the only goal of the agency is to micromanage how citizens use water.

There is a yiddish word for this behavior: chutzpah. (Look it up.)

You might think that nothing could top this particular display of tone-deaf arrogance, but you’d be wrong.

Whenever another mass shooting brings calls for better background checks or other modest gun-safety measures, the NRA and its enablers always respond by insisting that the problem is a lack of mental health screening and treatment. So Senator Al Franken has sponsored a bill to improve those services.

The Franken Bill would provide much needed mental health services and tools for police and the courts to address deficiencies in the nation’s mental health system. The legislation should be uncontroversial, but Mike Lee and Tom Coburn adhere dogmatically to an anti-government ideology that would even deny combat veterans and others suffering from mental illness, access to critical services.

So Coburn and Lee have blocked the bill.

Franken’s bill does have support from several less-crazy Republicans, but increasingly, GOP policy is in thrall to people like Lee, Coburn and the Governor of Texas, who recently vetoed a mental health bill in that state because—wait for it—he doesn’t believe mental illness is real. (Can I offer you a mirror, Governor?)

Speaking of cognitive impairment…Just how many Americans have been drinking Flint’s water, and for how long?


Words are Inadequate

We still have no answer to the questions who and why…..no way of getting our heads around the fact that some (presumably) human being or beings planned and executed a devastating, vicious attack on people they didn’t know, people who had come to Boston simply to run a marathon.

This is the horror of terrorism: it’s random. It reminds us all that life is tenuous, and that any belief that we are in control our destinies is illusory.  It reminds us–as if we had any doubt after Sandy Hook and Gabrielle Giffords and 9-11– that there are sick people in this world, people whose rage or pain or zealotry trumps their humanity.

There really aren’t any words for what most of us are feeling right now.