An understandable question in the wake of the latest instance of a mass shooting in the U.S. echoes among us: “Why does this happen?” A mental health professional calls this the “wrong question,” and asks us to consider an alternative: “Why do some people choose this as a form of suicide?” Reframing the question along these lines might seem to lend support House Speaker Paul Ryan’s comment that “… these shootings (are) often a diagnosis of mental health.” However, there is something wrong with this proposed answer, unless one considers the causes of mental illness in a broader context. Mental illness, like any other psychological condition, can be rooted in environmental factors. We, as a citizenry, need to think deeply about how the present environment is permeated by a toxin of hate, and how the leaders of our government, most of all our current president, cheerleads large groups to anger through division and divisiveness. On Oct. 3, the editors of the New York Times graphically reported that in the past 477 days, 521 mass shootings have occurred in the U.S. Were all of the perpetrators of these heinous acts of violence mentally ill? Were any of these people consumed by anger as they set their sites on their victims?
Dorothy Evensen, Ferguson Township