Is James Holmes Mentally Ill? Does It Matter?

Last Saturday’s early-morning massacre at a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, stands as one of the most horrific rampages in American history.  But before anyone had any clue as to James Holmes’ motive for such a heinous act—even before the bodies had been removed from the site of the carnage—websites and social media were abuzz with suspicions that the gunman was either mentally ill, or was under the effect of psychotropic medications—one (or both) of which may have contributed to his crime.

As of this writing, any statement about Holmes’ psychiatric history is pure conjecture (although as I post this, I see a Fox News report claiming that Holmes mailed a notebook to “a psychiatrist” detailing his plan—more will surely be revealed).  Acquaintances quoted in the media have described him as a shy person, but have reported no erratic or unusual behaviors to arouse suspicion of an underlying mental illness.  Until recently, he was even enrolled in a graduate neuroscience program.  Some reports suggest that Holmes had spent weeks engineering an elaborate and complex scheme, hinting at some highly organized—albeit deadly—motive.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that we simply don’t know about any diagnosis, medication, or other psychiatric condition or treatment, which might shed light on Holmes’ frame of mind.

Those who focus on Holmes’ mental state at the time of the murders seem to fall in one of two camps.  Some argue that medications (if he were under the influence of any) may have enabled or facilitated this horrific act.  Others say that if Holmes had been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness, then this catastrophe serves as proof that we need more aggressive treatment—including medications—and services for the mentally ill.

It will be some time before we get answers in Holmes’ case.  And to me, that’s just as well.  Determining whether he has a mental illness, or was under the influence of psychotropic drugs last weekend, unfortunately reframes the question in such a way that further propagates the rift between these two factions, and fails to address how we should handle future cases like Holmes’ more humanely.  If, for example, Holmes is found to suffer from untreated schizophrenia, our society’s (and profession’s) reaction will be to lobby for more aggressive treatment, greater access to medication, more widespread screening programs, and, perhaps, a lower threshold by which to hospitalize psychotic individuals we deem as potentially “dangerous to others.”  If, on the other hand, a toxicology report reveals that Holmes had an antidepressant or antipsychotic in his bloodstream at the time of the murders, our inclination will be to restrict our use of these drugs, remove them from our formularies, and the outcries against psychopharmacology will grow ever louder.

Whether Holmes has a mental illness or not is irrelevant.  He was in crisis—probably for quite some time before last weekend—and that‘s what matters.  There was no one—and no way—to reach out to him and meet his needs in such a way to prevent this tragedy, and that, in my opinion, transcends whether he is “mentally ill” or not.

How can we fix this?  In his column in Monday’s New York Times, David Brooks almost provides a solution.  He writes, correctly, that prevention of such catastrophic events occurs through “relationships”—relatives or neighbors, for instance, who might recognize a change in someone’s behavior and encourage him to get help.  Admittedly, establishing a caring relationship with someone who suffers a history of trauma, grief over a recent loss, poor self-esteem, pathological narcissism, or acute psychosis may be difficult.  But relatives and neighbors are indeed often the first to notice questionable behavior and are well positioned to help those in need.  Perhaps in Holmes’ case, too, we’ll soon learn of some classmates or coworkers who felt something was amiss.

Brooks goes on to argue that it’s the responsibility of that neighbor or relative to “[get] that person treatment before the barbarism takes control.”  He doesn’t define what sort of “treatment” he has in mind.  But he does say that killers are “the product of psychological derangements, not sociological ones,” so the aggressive treatment options he endorses presumably include more aggressive psychological (or psychiatric) treatment.  But to expect a neighbor or relative to help an individual access treatment is precisely a sociological phenomenon.  It puts the onus on our culture at large to pay attention to how our neighbors think and act, and to offer a helping hand or a safe environment (or a locked psychiatric unit, if it has progressed that far) to those of us who think and behave differently or who are suffering a crisis.

That, unfortunately, is not what Brooks is arguing for.  (After all, the title of his essay is “More Treatment Programs.”)  If mass murderers suffer from psychological problems, which is what Brooks seems to believe, the solution “has to start with psychiatry.”  But this introduces the longstanding problem of defining that arbitrary border between “normal” and “abnormal”—a virtually impossible task.  And, of course, once we pathologize the “abnormal,” we’re then obligated to provide treatments (antipsychotic medication, involuntary hospitalization, assisted outpatient treatment, forced drugging) which, yes, might decrease the likelihood of further dangerousness, but which also compromise patients’ civil rights and do not always enable them to recover.

Brooks is right on one point.  Relationships are part of the answer.  Relationships can provide compassion and support in one’s most difficult times.  One take-home message from the Aurora tragedy should be that people like Holmes—regardless of whatever he is even “mentally ill” at all—need the security and comfort of safe, trustworthy individuals who are looking out for his (and society’s) best interests and who can intervene at a much earlier stage and in a much less aggressive way, perhaps even avoiding conventional psychiatric treatment altogether.

Getting to that point, unfortunately, requires a sea change in how we deal more compassionately with those in our society who are different from the rest of us—a change that our nation may be unwilling, or unable, to make.  If we fail to make it, we’ll be stuck with the never-ending debate over the validity of psychiatric diagnoses, the effectiveness of psychiatric drugs, the ethics of forced treatment, and the dilemma of defining when antisocial behavior becomes a “disease.”  In the meantime, troubled souls like James Holmes will continue to haunt us, left to their own devious plans until psychiatric treatment—or worse—is the only available option.

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51 Responses to Is James Holmes Mentally Ill? Does It Matter?

  1. Steve says:

    Our non-profit (sic) clinic has many folks who, despite concerted efforts by their relatives, consistently refuse treatments, just up to the parameters of danger to self or others. When they exceed the parameters, they ‘re briefly hospitalized And even rehospitalized multiple times within several months due to either poor treatment or the legal definitions of hospitalizability. Not sure if the “system” would Have stopped the CO tragedy or even prevented his firearms ownership. People have run amok (old word) in societies since recorded history And it’s unlikely to suddenly disappear, whether it’s due to psychological or sociological causes, IMO.

    • stevebMD says:

      “People have run amok (old word) in societies since recorded history…”

      Correct. The difference is that only recently have we interpreted such behavior as biological in origin. In the past, societies handled the “deviants” among them by providing social support, family involvement, or religious or spiritual intervention (or, sadly, by locking them away in a sanitarium). Now that we see abnormal behavior as “psychiatric”– ie, as a medical illness– those difficult sociological quandaries no longer matter: we just need to get those people into treatment.

      The last time you walked past a disheveled homeless person mumbling to himself on a street corner, did you stop to help him? Or did you lament the fact that our community mental health services are so overburdened that people like him can’t get their meds?

  2. leejcaroll says:

    Steve, I am pretty alone in the world. My family aboandoned me decades ago and because of my trigeminal neuralgia I was virtually housebound for many years. Without work and family it is very hard to find a way to make friends and my vest friend moved hours away a few years back. I worry about not having that societal connection. Brookss is right in that aspect that there needs to be a village, as Hillary would say. (And yet invariably when you ask neighbors and even friends they say something akin to: he seemed okay to me.
    I did see an “expert” on one of the shows, I believe he was a psychiatrist, not psychologist, who evidently has written on schizophrenia and stated that because of Holmes age there was a good chance he was in the process of becoming schizoid.
    The problem with all this armchair psychology is it taints any possible jury pool and is often used as an “out”, but for the illness this would not have happened.
    This needs to be a call to arms (pun maybe intended) to bring back the ban on assault weapons. It should not be a call to bring back more forced hospitalizations/treatment.

    (I recall when I lived in NYC. A resident was in the lobby, someone many people knew and liked, behaving in a very erratic way, walking around in circles, mumbling to herself. People saw her but I do not know if it was fear of getting involved or discomfort with someone in obvious psychiatric distress but I was surprised that no one was willing to immediately help, although I waited a little bit not wanting to ask her if she needed help until it was clear it was not merely a momentary aberration. Sometimes people just do not know what to do so do nothing.)

  3. mara says:

    I was on the bus today and an old homeless woman dragged on a bunch of stuff. Two other women made snide comments. NO ONE WAS ON THE BUS EXCEPT FOR THE BUS DRIVER, THOSE 2, ME, AND THE HOMELESS WOMAN. That is a total of 5 people on a public bus. And yes, it does take longer to drag on a bunch of stuff, but the bus was running early and the driver told her not to worry about it.

    Of course the real issue there is that she’s old and obviously homeless, but all those two snotty women could think of was how much stuff was being dragged on the near-vacant bus and how much time it took an elderly person to drag it on.

    I am sure James Holmes was in plenty of distress (the real issue) but everyone probably just thought he was a creepy dude and were probably snide and unwilling to get involved.

    This is just the kind of society we live in. I don’t even know how to overhaul something like that.

  4. Altostrata says:

    Maybe there’s a third way to look at this? Which is: Some extreme actions cannot be predicted or caught beforehand in any kind of screening program, or (as Dr. Steve implies) definitely associated with mental illness ex post facto.

    Permitting widespread access to weapons of mass murder, however, guarantees some oddballs will have them and can make whatever plans they want with them. It’s the American way!

    James Holmes may or may not have been in distress, he may or may not have had obvious signs of psychosis, he may or may not have had any identifiable psychological problem, but he unquestioningly did have a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic rifle equipped with a 100-round drum magazine.

    • mara says:

      I know what you mean. When the founding fathers said we have the right to bear arms I don’t think they thought in terms of such high tech weaponry. I think they thought in terms of muskets for hunting or a pistol for dueling or the occasional intruder. How many people would have been hurt or killed with a musket? Could you just imagine him trying to conceal that thing with the loose powder and BB sized ammo. And just imagine him trying to reload one of those suckers….

      • Altostrata says:

        According to historian Jill Lepore in the April 19, 2012 New Yorker: “The assertion that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to own and carry a gun for self-defense, rather than the people’s right to form militias for the common defense, first became a feature of American political and legal discourse in the wake of the Gun Control Act of 1968, and only gained prominence in the nineteen-seventies.”

        The lobbying to achieve this politically motivated change in interpretation was funded by the NRA. For the 200 years prior to 1968, the Second Amendment protected militias, not individual gun ownership.

    • camillo says:

      Alto,
      Great to hear from you, I was going to write in the spirit of what you wrote but I was afraid to say it. Leaving the important issue of guns aside, a psycho path is a psychopath.

      These brutal slaughters are so rare that maybe we are preventing a lot of them.

      There are order of magnitude 30,000 suicides a year in about 400 days, or, about 75 suicides yesterday. That’s one hell of a tragedy but I don’t see a great public furor over it.

      Steve, if guns didn’t exist, and I am not saying that they can be controlled, would the suicide rate be cut by a third?

    • jim brown says:

      it would not matter he could have had a 1k clip the devil was taking over his brain.

  5. Mindy Brown says:

    This is the America where,, a few summerso ago, tens of elderly
    Chicago residents died alone in their apartment of heat exhaustion
    This is America where we fear to “intervene” in situations that’
    ;might not be out business and so deny others our skills and warmth. I live in an upper middle class neighborhood where neighbrso go for weeks in the winter without communicating because of busy schedules.. Personally, I try to develop relationships with neighborhood kids, to act as an extra set of eyes and ears for them.
    To assume that neighbors could diagnose or approach a standoff-ish guy, maybe paranoid is a bit extreme, but the professors who
    observed Holmes’ difficulties should have attempted to feel him out.
    and encourage treatment as necessary. Where was his family
    in this crisis period.
    If this is the onset of schizophrenia, it is often a push-pull situation
    where the victim is clearly in distress, but unable to trust help.

  6. Rob Lindeman says:

    Steve, I’m astonished that you consider only two possibilities: that Holmes either has an untreated mental illness or he was having a bad reaction to drugs. There is a third that, with the exception of a blogger at the New York Post, no one has mentioned: Perhaps Holmes is a bad guy who, with evil intent, carefully plotted and carried out a mass murder.

    The shouts of “SEE-He’s-crazy!!!” grow increasingly ridiculous as signs of Holmes’ madness fail to appear.

    My guess is that at the end of the day, the average observer will be told all he needs to know to conclude that Holmes was mentally ill when he committed his crimes.

    THAT’S why this case matters, Steve. It matters because it just might compel us to call Evil by its name.

    • Hawkeye says:

      Yes Rob. To many people who commit mass murder victims are characters in a video game.

    • Mara says:

      Rob, he thinks he’s The Joker and dyed his hair orange. I think this is why people consider him insane. He’s clearly delusional.

      • leejcaroll says:

        He may be delusional but he also was logical enough in his thinking to have planned and prepared for this.
        I knew someone, as a teen, who had some very delusional thinking. They knew it was delusional and went through life at the time in the 2 ‘states’ if you will. Aware and nondelusional and delusional and realizing it was a delusion while still thinking it could be real. You can have this split.
        And ill does not negate evil either.

      • Rob Lindeman says:

        Mara, there is no credible evidence available to us that Holmes is/was delusional. His act alone does not make him delusional. Even the statements accredited to him are unconfirmed. I wonder if you call him “delusional” because you want to believe it?

      • Altostrata says:

        Where I live, people dye their hair orange as a fun fashion statement. It’s common around colleges.

        Was he evil or mentally ill? Is evil a kind of mental illness? The vague medico-legal category “mental illness” fades into philosophical discussion.

      • Rob Lindeman says:

        Ah! But my dear Altostrata, the question becomes substantially more than philosophical when it comes to trying Holmes in court! If he was insane when he committed his crimes, he may be declared NGBRI, and gets an indeterminate sentence. If not, he gets a finite one.

      • Hawkeye says:

        “he may be declared NGBRI, and gets an indeterminate sentence. If not, he gets a finite one.”

        Rob,
        I googled, Colorado has the death penalty, if he is declared sane he may get an infinte sentence, like for eternity.

        Further, insanity, I think, means really, really psychotic, the perpetrator actually does not know what he is doing. I think such a verdict is rare, but I am not sure.

      • Altostrata says:

        Correct, Rob Lindeman, “mentally ill” can be a legal defense, but there’s no congruity between the defendant’s actual mental status and NGRI, GBMI, or competent and guilty.

        Examples: David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy, Sirhan Sirhan, Henry Lee Lucas, Charles Manson and John Wayne Gacy, from http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/psychology/insanity/11.html by a former detective “If someone like Dahmer could not be categorized as legally insane, then it stands up to reason that the criteria for insanity must surely be a difficult standard to meet.”

        On the other hand, it is quite easy to get a diagnosis of serious mental illness from a psychiatrist!

    • Virginia Matheson says:

      Thank you, Rob. Let’s not absolve a mass murderer of his responsibility by assuming that society is at fault for not taking care of him. Yeesh.

  7. leejcaroll says:

    Altostrata, youre right, how many folks do we see with pink, purple, orange hair, etc?
    He is young enough to do something like that. It is also of course Joker color so who knows. The problem with all these discussions is, while they are fun and interesting, we do not have all the facts (and may never have them)

  8. Jane says:

    I have to say I’m with Rob Lindeman when he asks, “Why not a bad guy?” although I would substitute “bad guy” with “aggrieved asshole in possession of several force multipliers”. Mara and the media have made much of the orange hair as a sign that Holmes is delusional – identifying with the “The Joker”, but, as has been pointed out (by a number of blogs) in the comic series, The Joker sported green hair. Keith Ledger (who played The Joker) had “dirty blonde” hair – the same color as his character in the Batman movie. Furthermore, Holmes (with orange hair) identified himself as Classicjimbo (NOT the Joker) on a July 5th posting on Adultfriendfinder.com. As for the “I’m the Joker” statement attributed to Holmes, I think it’s a likely attempt by Holmes to be either cute or ironic: see http://knowyourmeme.com/videos/45506-batman

  9. John Allman says:

    The killer escaped the scene, and managed somehow not to be perceived as a threat to cops, enabling him to be arrested rather than summarily executed by a hail of gunfire from America’s armed and sometimes frightened police officers. We therefore have a rare opportunity to find out from the horse’s mouth, so-to-speak, what a killer of this genre was thinking about, to do something so cruel and so wicked, and contrary to his own best interests at that.

    Ignorant speculation on the social media as to whether the culprit was thought, or would have been thought, by a psychiatrist, to have what psychiatry calls a “mental illness”, is indicative of several mistaken ways of thinking in that are to be found in our culture.

    First, bigoted attitudes against those who are susceptible to psychiatric diagnosis are still widespread. This is a serious problem, in my opinion.

    Secondly, there are commonplace misunderstandings as to what psychiatry is and isn’t, and who are, and are not, properly a psychiatrist’s patients.

    Thirdly, there is confusion in the public’s mind amongst three utterly distinct concepts, that are barely related to one another: (1) mental illness, as health professionals use the term; (2) going homicidally berserk as people have always done occasionally, whether or not they qualify for psychiatric diagnoses, and as several US soldiers did in My Lai in 1968, providing a far worse home-grown American earlier example of this sort of behaviour than the latest example; and (3) various partial or complete legal defences against criminal charges, such as “insanity”, “diminished responsibility”, and “provocation” leading to a “sudden, temporary loss of self-control” in English jurisprudence.

    John Allman

    http://RightCases.org.uk

    • leejcaroll says:

      The legal definitionof insanity is not knowing the difference between right and wrong, based on “The traditional test of insanity in criminal cases is whether the accused knew “the difference between right and wrong,” following the “M’Naughten Rule” from 19th Century England. Most states require more sophisticated tests based on psychiatric and/or psychological testimony evaluated by a jury of laypersons or a judge without psychiatric training ” http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/insanity
      also the inability to participate in trial, assist counsel. (see link for all 5.

    • Altostrata says:

      John Allman brings up excellent points.

      In US courts, far from objective assessments determining NGRI, it usually becomes a battle of experts, as hired forensic psychiatrists, etc. testify for the prosecution and defense.

  10. aek says:

    Oh hai. I wasn’t aware that a transcript of the court testimony from the completed trial along with a complete set of medical records and the perpetrator’s journal had been made available and had been analyzed. Wait. What?

    Premature ejaculation. There’s a pill for that.

  11. Puddytat says:

    I agree w. Dr. SteveB, when he says it should not matter whether Holmes was mentally ill or not. MOST consumers are NOT, I repeat NOT violent, and there are WAY MORE violent “normal” people than those of us w/ (what is called for the moment) “mental illness”, but why does virtually NO one EVER bring this little fact up when news incidents like the Colorado shooting occur?

    I further agree w/ SteveB that in a democratic society, we can NOT ALWAYS control every thing another human being can or will do, despite our best efforts, and in the name of civil liberties, wouldn’t be in the overall best collective interest, either.

    Perhaps metal detectors should be installed in theaters, as we cannot realistically or constitutionally forcibly medicate and/or strip search every citizen all for the sake of “might” or “maybe”. Real life is ALL about risks, scary or not, fair or not.

    • leejcaroll says:

      Puddytat, they don;t bring it up because it is a way for us to deny the violence that any of us could do. If it is someone mentally ill, you can keep your ‘there but for the grace of god go i’ but because I am not mentally ill, nor the people I know, this is something that is only on the TV and a problem only when someone is mentally ill.

      • Altostrata says:

        I agree, sort of — speculating whether someone like Holmes is mentally ill is a way for people to put this into a narrative they can understand. The possibility that evil or violence might lurk in anyone is too ambiguous and scary. Saying a bizarre action might have been predicted or prevented makes people feel safer.

  12. leejcaroll says:

    Mara, it is not an issue of good and evil, they are not legal concepts.
    The standard, at least part – is did the person know the difference between right and wrong. You can recast that in the moral construct of good and evil but I think the idea of evil may be even more esoteric then mentally ill.

  13. Totally Forgot about MIND-CONTROL more evidence on JAMESHOLMESCONVICTION dot COM in the address bar

    • John Allman says:

      The link Gabriel Kullos gave is, at first glance, quite probably packed with disinformation, or the semi-sane ramblings of a targeted individual of so-called electronic harassment that delivers so-called “mind control” applications. But it might also contain fragments of truth, and therefore needs to be scrutinised carefully, by a person who is a believer in the possible reality of this alleged phenomenon, but a sceptic about every detail of every alleged perpetration published in such an unscholarly fashion.

      The garbled account on Gabriel’s linked-to website contains all the right keywords, not least DARPA. The allegedly targeted community has already speculated that Holmes was a victim. I am willing to undertake the necessary scrutiny, but I’d appreciate Gabriel first please giving any further information he can, such as who opened the website he linked to.

      • mara says:

        This is really off topic, but if you still visit this blog…may I ask what is the origin of your last name? I’m asking because I am American, with the same last name, and every family reunion people wonder where the first Allman came from. Is it a British last name? My father said his grandfather said they were Scottish, but no one else could back that up. It’s just a matter of curiosity. People have thrown out German, British, Scottish…Someone else said he found in old records that the first Allman in America came from England. All speculation though.

      • John Allman says:

        @ Mara

        You’re right, it is off-topic. I got the surname from my father, who got it from his father, whom latter died before I was born.

        I found this for you:

        http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Allman

        A lot of people in the USA seem very interested in ethnicity, surnames, genealogy, etc., I’ve noticed, especially European Amreicans.

        I once went shopping with an African American girlfriend in Michigan and we had a competition, as to which of us could negotiate the better discount on some furniture. She went first, and got 50% off, but she couldn’t negotiate 60% off, no matter how hard she tried.

        I then approached the store employee, and said, in my best English accent, “Mr Cranmer, forgive me for asking, but you wouldn’t happen to be related to the English bishop Cranmer who was martyred during the Reformation, would you?” Yes, he was related! Minutes later, we could have bought that furniture for 60% off marked price (“just for you”), and went away to discuss the offer.

        I regret saying to my girlfriend that it was the way I exploited that he and I were of the same “tribe” that enabled me to win that particular haggling competition. She made a bit of scene, questioning the store’s “commitment to diversity”, as she called it. I was embarrassed. I felt sorry for Mr Cranmer. Technically speaking, what he did was racism, but I’d not have challenged him on it. I just think Paula was a poor loser, and decided to become (what’s that word?) an “uppity” n’ – er – an uppity person.

        Don’t you think your Alex Haley did well, to trace his African American roots all the way back to Kunta Kinte in 18th century Gambia? Roots was a great TV series. It went down a treat in the UK.

        Have a look at the Archbishop Cranmer blog sometime. And please email me via then link in the original comment of mine on this story further up, rather than continue posting off topic comments here.

  14. Duane Sherry says:

    Dr. David Healy, Psychiatrist has an interesting take on this… one that deserves attention:

    “Most drugs that can cause suicide, including the antidepressants, mood-stabilizers, antipsychotics, smoking cessation drugs and others, can also cause violence. The akathisia, psychotic decompensation, or emotional disinhibition these drugs trigger that lead some to suicide, lead others to violence (see Healy et al 2006).”

    “There is some awareness that these drugs can cause suicide but considerable resistance to the idea. There is less awareness and even greater resistance to the idea that they can cause violence. Treatment induced violence lies in a medical blind spot – no doctor wants to contemplate the possibility that she may have had a role in the deaths of innocent third parties.”

    “This may be the grim prospect facing Dr. Lynne Fenton. Dr Fenton we are now told had been seeing James Holmes, the killer at Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, and had seen him just a week before the killings. Given the current reliance of American medicine on medications it seems likely that medications are involved in the Aurora case.”

    … Read the rest –

    http://www.madinamerica.com/2012/08/the-hidden-gorilla/

    Duane

  15. copycataka says:

    SSRI Stories
    Antidepressant Nightmares

    “We Speak for the Dead to Protect the Living”

    http://www.ssristories.com

    and

    The death toll rose to three Tuesday in the shooting rampage in an Ohio high school cafeteria as schoolmates and townspeople grappled with the tragedy and wondered what could have set the teenage gunman off (footnote 1). ”

    Recently, Thomas Lane, the latest member of a large and ever-growing club of school shooters, went on a rampage in the cafeteria at Chardon High School. Once again the media, the “townspeople,” politicians and most Americans, “grappled with the tragedy and wondered what could have set the teenage gunman off.” A few of us who know precisely what in fact “set the teenage gunman off” wonder about something more important – what must transpire before clueless Americans wake up to the cause of such senseless tragedies?

    Even fewer of us are somehow masochistic enough to once again set forth the truth, knowing that as before, ignorance will probably win the day, and Thomas Lane’s difficult home situation, or his bullying classmates, or some kind of psychobabble fiction will emerge to explain away this horrendous event, so that it can be conveniently forgotten like all the other school shootings.

    Religious justifications will be invoked to assuage those who are shocked and suffering from their tragic losses as they pray for answers. And if the actual answer as to “what could have set the teenage gunman off” does somehow find its way into print, I’m predict that history will repeat itself. Personal responsibility will be deflected for this and other tragedies, and the blame will immediately be shifted elsewhere so that the painful truth can be denied and remain hidden.

    We only need to ask one simple question to determine “what could have set the teenage gunman off.” That question is: What psychiatric drug was he taking or withdrawing from? Sometimes simple questions are the hardest to ask. That question would be hard for the media to ask, because after reporting the event, taking station breaks for advertisements for antidepressants and sedatives might give big media editors and producers indigestion, since their very existence depends on Big Pharma sponsorship. That question would be hard for some politicians to ask because it might jeopardize Big Pharma campaign contributions (footnote 2). And that question might be hard for many Americans to ask because they are consuming psychiatric medications like candy.

    School Violence
    The following are reports of teens committing acts of school violence during an 18 year period from 1988-2006 (footnote 3), beginning only one year after the first SSRI antidepressant was approved for the U.S. market for adult use only. More than half of the teens committing these acts were taking SSRI antidepressants.

    1988
    1. September 26, 1988, South Carolina: James Wilson, 19, went on a shooting spree in an elementary schoolyard in Greenwood, killing two 8 year olds, and wounding 7 other children and 2 teachers. He was taking Xanax and for the eight months prior to the shooting had been taking several psychiatric drugs.

    1997
    2. October 1, 1997, Pearl, Mississippi: Luke Woodham, 16, shot two students to death and wounded seven others after beating and stabbing his mother to death. Public reports say the boy was taking Prozac.
    3. December 1, 1997, West Paducah, Kentucky: 14-year-old Michael Carneal
    was on Ritalin, when he started firing a gun during a prayer meeting at a high school, killing three teens aged 14 to 17, and wounding five other students, including one who is paralyzed.

    1998
    4. March 1998, Arkansas: Andrew Golden, 11, and cousin Mitchell Johnson, 13, went on a shooting spree at Westside Middle School in Arkansas, killing four students and one teacher. Nine students and a teacher were also wounded. In a review of the book Teenage Rampage: The Worldwide Youth Phenomenon, both boys were reported to be taking Ritalin.
    5. May 21, 1998, Oregon: 15-year-old Kip Kinkel murdered his parents and then
    proceeded to school where he opened fire on students in the cafeteria, killing two
    and wounding 22. Kinkel had been taking Prozac and an amphetamine.
    6. Pocatello, Idaho: An unnamed 14 year old held 5 classmates hostage with a gun. He surrendered to the police and fortunately no one was hurt. He was taking Zoloft.

    1999
    7. April 16, 1999, Idaho: 15-year-old Shawn Cooper fired two shotgun rounds in his school, narrowly missing students. He was taking a prescribed SSRI antidepressant and Ritalin.
    8. April 29, 1999, Taber, Alberta: An unnamed 14-year-old student from W.R. Myers High School shot two students, killing one. He began taking prescribed Dexedrine immediately prior to the shooting.
    9. April 20, 1999, Colorado: 18-year-old Eric Harris, the ringleader in the Columbine massacre was taking Luvox that the coroner confirmed was in his system through toxicology reports. He and his co-shooter, Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 23 others before killing themselves.
    10. May 20, 1999, Georgia: 15-year-old T.J. Solomon was being treated with
    Ritalin when he opened fire on and wounded six of his classmates.
    11. December 6, 1999, Fort Gibson, Oklahoma: 13-year-old Seth Trickey fired
    at least 15 shots at Fort Gibson Middle School wounding four classmates. He was
    undergoing psychological counseling and was probably being medicated, although those records are sealed.

    2000
    12. March 7, 2000, Williamsport, Pennsylvania: Elizabeth Bush, 14, was taking
    Prozac when she shot at fellow students, wounding one.

    2001
    13. January 10, 2001, Oxnard, California: A 17-year-old gunman fired shots at
    Hueneme High School before taking a female student hostage. He was later shot and killed by police. Prior to the shooting he had been treated for mental illness and was probably taking psychiatric drugs.
    14. March 22, 2001, California: 18-year-old Jason Hoffman opened fire on his
    classmates, wounding three students and two teachers at Granite Hills High School. He had been prescribed the antidepressants Celexa and Effexor.
    15. April 2001, Washington State: 16-year-old Cory Baadsgaard took a rifle to
    his high school and took 23 classmates and a teacher hostage. According to another student, “Cory was yelling and then he just stopped, looked down at the gun in his hand and woke up.” Fortunately, no one was hurt. Cory had been taking Effexor and had no memory of the incident.

    2003
    16. January 2003, Elliot City, Maryland: Ryan T. Furlough, 19, killed a Centennial High School classmate by spiking his soda with cyanide. He was being treated with Effexor.

    2004
    17. February 2004, Greenbush, New York: 16-year-old, Jon Romano strolled into Columbia high school in east Greenbush and opened fire with a shotgun. Special education teacher Michael Bennett was hit in the leg. The boy was treated with medication for depression.

    2005
    18. March, 2005, Minnesota: Jeff Weise, 16, shot dead his grandparents, then went to his school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation where he shot dead 8 students and a teacher, and wounded 7 before killing himself. He was taking Prozac.
    19. November 8, 2005, Jacksboro, Tennessee: Kenneth Bartley, a student in
    high school shot and killed an assistant principal. The principal and another assistant principal were wounded. He had previously spent about a year and a half in a residential juvenile treatment program, where he was likely prescribed psychiatric drugs.

    2006
    20. August 30, 2006, Hillsborough, North Carolina: Alvaro Castillo, 19, killed
    his father, then opened fire at Orange High School, wounding two students before
    surrendering to police. He had been involuntarily treated in a state psychiatric hospital, and such commitment nearly always involves drugs.
    21. October 10, 2006, Charleston, South Carolina: Tyrell Glover, 19, took an air rifle to Burke High School where he planned to hold students hostage and be gunned down by police. He had been taking an antidepressant for several years but his mother took him off the drug when she saw the listed side effects in ads. However, Tyrell began taking Prozac again for approximately six months. Whether he was taking a psychiatric drug or withdrawing from it at the time of this hostage/suicide plan is yet to be confirmed.

    The number of drug-related school shootings are dwarfed by the number of non-school-related violent events associated with psychiatric medication use. Many school shooting cases have had their court documents sealed, especially if minors are involved, and the extent of the chemical use is often never revealed. The psychiatric drug-related violence noted in the cases above was discovered mostly by reporters who dug up the data, usually reporting it as an “incidental” finding!

    Thomas Lane did not go to Chardon High, instead attending nearby Lake Academy, which is for students with academic or behavioral problems, making it extremely unlikely that he was not being medicated with psychiatric drugs. But we may never know if his records are sealed too, which I suspect often happens due to pressure from Big Pharma or from those politically positioned to benefit from the pharmaceutical companies money.

    Socrates said, “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.” Yes, Lane’s acts of violence, as well as all the others listed above, is evil. However, I believe that a more fundamental evil is behind these school shootings – the pervasive ignorance about the power of psychiatric medication to worsen the very behaviors they are marketed to relieve, violence against oneself (suicide) and against others.

    Drastically altering the function of brain chemistry with chemicals that life has never before encountered over vast eons of time, can’t not have unpredictable results, especially in children and teens who have not matured completely and don’t possess normal adult checks and balances on impulsivity. I am astonished that this obvious, scientific fact is still denied by most people. You don’t have to be a recovering drug or alcohol addict to admit that people who consume these chemicals are “powerless” over the consequences. You don’t have to be an expert physician and biochemist like me who has balanced the brain chemistries of many thousands of patients over 35 years using natural remedies.

    The question is not “do psychiatric drugs cause violent behaviors?” The right question is, “how can these drugs not cause violent behaviors?”

    The sooner you admit the truth, insist that your politicians wake up and devise rational policies about psychiatric medication use and abuse, and warn those in your inner circle of friends and family about this menace to civilization, the sooner we can reclassify psychiatric drugs as obsolete therapies and dispose of them in the trash bins of history.

    Well, on second thought, we might need to be cautious about disposing these drugs because due to their widespread use and abuse, they have made their way into lakes, streams and other bodies of water, and are now in the drinking water in many municipalities (footnote 4). So watch out when you swim at your local lake or pond this summer, because some of the fish might be imbibing psychiatric-medications-laced water, and who knows what a trout driven into murderous, psychotic rage would be capable of!

  16. Natasha. says:

    In my opinion, it’s silly to blame conventional psychiatry, or its drugs for anything James Holmes did. There are so many people who are on antidepressants and/or psychotropic drugs, and it’s very rare that they go out and commit a murder.

    There is no evidence – anywhere – to suggest that modern psychiatry and/or pharmaceutical drugs, lead people to commit violent crimes.

    Yes, the odd person here and there that commits a crime, is on antidepressants, and/or is seeing a psychiatrist, but that is to do with how the person was BEFORE he/she went into therapy. “If” a drug tips someone into violent behaviour, it’s because of a pre-existing, pre-disposition to violence.

    – By the way, I use English spelling, so please don’t correct my spelling, when it is not ever ‘wrong’. Thanks.

    • Altostrata says:

      Natasha said: ““If” a drug tips someone into violent behaviour, it’s because of a pre-existing, pre-disposition to violence.”

      Natasha, that may be your opinion, but it is not borne out by medical research. Agitation, akathisia, and violent behavior can be adverse effects from psychiatric drugs in people with no predisposition to such symptoms. This is well documented. Just Google “akathisia” and see for yourself.

      Or read a few case reports here http://tinyurl.com/3o4k3j5

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