Friday, July 20, 2012

Colorado Theater Shooter; Explaining The Inexplicable

Mental illness forced itself upon all of us once again in a Colorado movie theater this morning.  Whether or not we are ready to listen and to understand remains to be seen.  Inexplicable actions are troublesome for many, especially when trying to explain something so foreign as a massacre by a lone shooter. 

As with other lone shooters the story will eventually come out that this young adult was a loner with higher than average intelligence.  Many interacted with him but few took the time to get to know him.  Many are going to say he seemed a little off but no one thing will be pointed to.  His graduate school may know much more than they're admitting too and I'm sure we'll find they counseled him out so to speak; suggesting he stop his studies and requesting he get the help he needed before continuing his studies.  The bottom line to this story will be that almost all excluded the shooter from their friendship based upon a perceived difference and indifference.

In the area known as schizophrenia there is still too much confusion.  Even graduate students struggle with grasping much of it.  Basically there are three phases of what is referred to as a formal thought disorder (schizophrenia).

The first phase is the prodromal phase where behavior, cognition and emotion seems odd and eccentric.  Not so much so that people clearly see it but, something is wrong.  The second or active phase is where there is a total loss of touch with reality.  Delusional beliefs rule the day and the person is convinced that what their mind is telling them, is the absolute truth.  How far fetched you or I feel the thought might sound, to the subject with the affliction, the thought is as real as real can be.  The third phase is known as remission or recovery.  Phase 2 and 3 are easy to spot but phase one, which can last a year or more, is often only identified after phase 2 becomes apparent.  Phase one often strikes in the late teens or early 20's.

What you need to understand and believe is that in a thought disorder, the individuals thinking is as strong as yours or mine with one exception, they hold delusional views about the world and their place in it.  Trying to talk the thought out of them or using rationalization to show them how far off they are, is of no appreciable value.  All behavior is purposeful.  It is purposeful to the person engaging in it but not to others watching.  Inexplicable behavior is easily understood by the actor but almost never understood by those who witness it..

The shooter in this case will be found insane and unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions.  What concerns me most is whether or not society will finally come to understand that our mental health system is failing.  Protections are offered disproportionately to those afflicted but not to those ultimately affected.  We need a new system and police cannot continue to be forced to become mental health workers with guns.  The one thing this is not about is gun control laws but I fear politicians and special interests will talk the loudest about that issue and once again we will miss the real problem.

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