Our country is the only developed country that has mass murders perpetrated by young adults, college students, high school students and even some elementary school students. After one of these incidents such as the one in Tucson, there comes an outcry about mental illness and how the mentally ill need to be noticed, contained and treated in order to prevent violence. I agree that the mentally ill need to be treated but also feel the need to point out that the rates of violence in mentally ill populations are no higher than the rates of violence in non-mentally ill populations and are sometimes lower. The US has the same percentage of mentally ill as do the other developed countries yet they do not have the same kinds of murderous events that we experience. Why?
There are other factors besides the presence of untreated mentally ill young people. One is the easy access to very lethal automatic weapons. When one can enter a store and emerge with an arsenal, something is amiss. To drive a car one must prove that he or she is competent to handle this powerful machine and understands the laws involved by taking a written test. To require less than this for gun ownership seems foolhardy. There is also a media that is hungry for sensational stories and extreme rhetoric that excites and attracts viewers. This media has a powerful influence and ubiquitous presence, becoming embedded in the minds of those who are most vulnerable,the isolated person who consumes many hours daily of violent imagery and angry political arguments. It is time that we focused on looking at the factors that differentiate us from the other developed countries. Those factors do not include the number of mentally ill and alienated young people.