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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Fort Hood shooting: stereotypes surrounding mental illness

Callie Parrish

Callie Parrish // The Daily Cougar

Mental illness is the first thing that is talked about when a shooting occurs. It’s always in a bad light, too, mainly because of the stigma of mental illness and also because of a general ignorance toward this subject.

Just about every form of media points the finger at mental illness as the cause of a shooting, because a sane person would never do that. Let’s get real here, stop pulling the wool over our own eyes and realize that evil certainly exists in this world.

There are evil people out there. Period. If one were to say that traditionally evil people are just crazy, one could say that Hitler was simply mentally ill instead of a dictator who killed others out of hatred. Had he not killed himself, I highly doubt he get would have gotten off using the insanity plea.

On April 2, the second shooting at Fort Hood occurred; Ivan Lopez was the shooter. Four were killed while 16 were injured.

According to CBC News, when Lopez’s father was interviewed on this topic, he said, “My son could not have been in sound mind. He was not that way.”

So the finger is pointed at mental illness as the cause, and mental illness is equated with “crazy.”

People apply logic to human behavior — or at least try to — when they say, “A sane person would never cause a shooting.” So if they are sane, then they will not cause a shooting. The inverse of that statement is that if they are crazy, then they will cause a shooting.

Those are not logically equivalent statements. In other words, there exists a counterexample; however, most people don’t see the flaw in their logic. The bottom line is that people are not logical, so the rules of logic don’t apply to them.

Sane people can be evil. A sane person is aware of their actions and in control of them. If they know a certain act is heinously wrong and still commits that act with no remorse thereafter, they are certainly evil.

Not only is it illogical, but also there are so many other factors that contribute to a shooting. The shooter could have simply snapped, or they could have strategically planned out the act. On the other hand, I’m not saying that a mentally ill person can’t commit a shooting, but that is not the point here.

According to CNN, Lopez “was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder before he opened fire at the Fort Hood Army post in Texas on Wednesday.”

Being evaluated and diagnosed with PTSD takes time — it doesn’t happen overnight.

“He was not diagnosed, as of today, with PTSD,” CNN reported.

Therefore, we will never truly know whether he was sane or “crazy,” if you will. But placing the entire blame on mental illness is unwise. We don’t know if he was mentally ill, so putting the blame on mental illness as if that were the sure reason for the shooting is simply an assumption. He is dead now, and a definitive diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder does not exist.

Most people are aware of the stigma surrounding mental illness — especially those who suffer from it along with their loved ones. According to Psychology Today, anti-psychiatrist Thomas Szasz argues that “mental illness is itself a myth, and that therefore terms such as ‘sociopath’ and ‘antisocial personality disorder’ are themselves just moral judgments disguised as empirically verifiable psychiatric disorders.”

“We call people mentally ill,” Sasz said, “when their personal conduct violates certain ethical, political and social norms.”

This thought certainly seems to be the norm of the media and of the general population. This needs to change, and people need to become educated on mental health and the issues that go with it.

Those with mental illness are not subhuman or beneath those who do not suffer from a mental illness. Mentally ill people are still people. There are many people who have never been exposed to the mentally ill; they just believe the general consensus without questioning it. From these stigmas, bad experiences can happen.

For instance, I’ve had three roommates in college move out of the dorm we shared because I am bipolar and because I’ve been hospitalized many times. I never did any wrong to them. I’ve even had electroconvulsive therapy.

The first roommate who moved out was the worst. I hadn’t brought up my bipolar disorder yet because I felt that it wasn’t the right time. However, when I had to be hospitalized because of a reaction to a psychiatric medication and was gone for a week, I couldn’t hide that I am bipolar and that I have been hospitalized any more.

So I told her. The next day, I went to class, and when I came back, all of her stuff in the dorm was gone. I contacted her via text and she told me that she moved out because I’m bipolar, been hospitalized and that she feared for her life. She thought that I was going to kill her in her sleep, all because I am “crazy.”

The other two weren’t as bad, but they still hurt because of the reasoning behind them choosing to move out.

Those not suffering from a mental illness can commit such acts. Mentally ill people have feelings and are human just like you, so treat them with respect. Also, mental illness does not necessarily imply that someone will do evil things.

Educate yourself if you think that mental illness implies that they will.

Opinion columnist Callie Parrish is a math and art senior and may be reached at [email protected]


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