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Monday, 26 May 2014


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Another tragedy highlighting the need for better understanding and concern for mental illness. In retrospect there were missed opportunities to avoid this, but unfortunately, I doubt that we will implement any changes based upon what we have learned. A cursory visit by the police to a homicidal and suicidal young man prompted by his alarmed parents obviously was not sufficient. The police had not viewed the online video that prompted his parents' concern. Nor were the police likely to know of his ownership of several guns. Based upon the reaction by the Sheriff, it seems that he is satisfied with his department's handling of the matter. His reaction can be summarized as "stuff happens".
The profile of a young male, mentally ill, and a loner, is what fits the perpetrators of this type of crime. Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, and now this, all have this in common.
There were three types of murder weapons used: knife, automobile and firearm. California does have at least some form of gun law which bans fully automatic weapons and large ammunition clips. This probably helped to keep the casualty count lower than it could have been. Not much consolation there, but it's something. We can do better.

Elliot O Rodger: (from New York Times, 6/26/2014)

"Mr. Rodger had been planning his “Day of Retribution,” as he called it in that manifesto, for three years, from the summer day that he moved into a small apartment with two roommates, the first time he lived away from home. He had arrived hoping to escape the sexual rejections that he had raged against through adolescence, but as he simmered at the happy couples walking down the streets, his thoughts turned from starting a new life to exacting revenge."

Jack Kerouac's Journals: (from The New Yorker, 6/22/1998)

june 17, 1948. Madly, painfully lonesome for a woman these evenings . . . and on I work. I see them walking outside and I go crazy. Why is it that a man trying to do big work, alone and poor, cannot find one woman who will give him her love and time? Someone like me, healthy, sexual, riven with desire for any pretty girl I see, yet unable to make love now, in youth, as they parade indifferently by my window—well, goddamit, it isn’t right! This experience is going to make me bitter, by God!

Elliot Rodger killed six people this past week, and of course Jack Kerouac went on to write On the Road.

I'm not sure that "antisocial and maladjusted" is the best description. News reports say he had autism, which is a genetically-based neurological disorder. He had a brain disease, not merely social and adjustment problems. People with autism are rarely violent, but in this case it lead to terrible tragedy.

From Richard Martinez, father of victim Christopher Martinez:

"Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA. . . . They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop?"

[I'd say that he was mentally ill AND antisocial and maladjusted. Anyway "antisocial" now sort of incorporates an implication of mental illness, because "antisocial personality disorder" is the latest term for sociopathy or psychopathy, presumably because the latter terms have gotten too pejorative (it's possible to be a psychopath and not be a criminal).

The issue is both fraught with difficulty but also crucial. Associating such behavior with mental illness is actually a powerful weapon—some studies have indicated that suicidal teenagers, for example, are more averse to being considered mentally ill than they are to being dead, such that associating mental illness more closely to suicide is actually effective in suicide prevention. On the other hand, you don't want to tar all mentally ill people with the same label as the CRIMINAL mentally ill, since most mentally ill people aren't criminals.

It's another terminology argument. But terminology is closely associated with ideas, and ideas can guide thinking, and thus are potentially powerful. --Mike]

My heart goes out to all those that lost loved ones. Such a needless tragedy. Young lives cut off in their prime. I also feel for the shooter who obviously lead a tormented and twisted life. It amazes me that someone who has been under the care of various psychiatrists since he was nine can legally get a gun, let alone three.

From Michael Moore, while Mr. Moore can be polarizing he does have some good points to make in my opinion.

"With due respect to those who are asking me to comment on last night's tragic mass shooting at UCSB in Isla Vista, CA -- I no longer have anything to say about what is now part of normal American life. Everything I have to say about this, I said it 12 years ago: We are a people easily manipulated by fear which causes us to arm ourselves with a quarter BILLION guns in our homes that are often easily accessible to young people, burglars, the mentally ill and anyone who momentarily snaps. [...] While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns]), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do. [...] Even when 90% of the American public calls for stronger gun laws, Congress refuses -- and then we the people refuse to remove them from office. So the onus is on us, all of us. We won't pass the necessary laws, but more importantly we won't consider why this happens here all the time."

Reading the headline my heart dropped imagining Butters and Lulu had had a change of heart towards each other with a terrible outcome.

[Oh no! Sorry. Adjustment is ongoing, but things are generally going very well. Butters is experiencing some separation anxiety when my son and I leave the house, but nothing more serious than that. --Mike]

Do I understand correctly that [a] the young man was mentally ill, [b] he was known to be mentally ill yet entitled to a gun license and to legally own a gun, and [c] his parents were warning authorities of his instability, yet these authorities saw no need to revoke his license and do something about his access to guns?

[As I understand it from the news sources, he had never been institutionalized, and his gun ownership came as a surprise to his parents. But, basically, yes. --Mike]

The term autism really describes a spectrum of behaviours that range from quite mild to profoundly disabling. There are many misconceptions about the disorder, the most popular is that of "the idiot savant" as portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the film Rainman.

The causes of autism aren't really clear, it was widely believed that as onset did not manifest until roughly the age of 36 months that it was therefore not inate and therefore not a development disorder or mental handicap. It was thought that while invitrio or after birth a virus triggered the condition. I believe that this view maybe changing as more research into genetics and DNA mapping give more clues. Whatever, the term will come to describe a syndrome rather than a specific illness much the way the term schizophrenia has.

The key features of the autism spectrum are a complete emotional detachment from others coupled with compulsive and at times very ritualistic behaviours. It is said the young man has Aspergers which is at the very high functioning end of the autism scale, but it in itself is a sliding scale of functionwhith some more aflicted than others. What is important to state here is that there is no cure, there is no medical treatment all there is is a life long process of behavioural modification where change can be seen only in small increments over long periods of time.

I know from reading statements in the press that the general concensus is the lack of mental facilities contributed to the tragic events. People with Aspergers do not do well in the traditional mental health setting as they are prone to pick up other behaviours. Medication while generally sedating would only serve as chemical restraint rather than help. The syndrome requires specialist care from suitably qualified people which tend to be few and far between.

So the lessons to be learnt from this is that there should be more community based mental health facilities with a range of expertise that can cope with psychotic, affective, personality and developmental disorders. This is expensive and even in countries with a public health system are cutting back in thiese areas as there are really no quantifiable outcomes and high expenditure things politicians hate. The other is that despite the best intentions of the local law agencies is there needs to be better liasion between the police and mental health authorities. In Western Australia, where live, the police can ask for staff from the local community clinic to acompany them on a call out where they suspect there might be mental health problems at work.

Finally if the United States insists onmaking guns an integral part of the culture then there needs to be a licencing system coupled with a national data base that prevents the mentally ill from having access to firearms.

Again this another tragic event for all concerned and it could have been prevented. This is what baffles people outside of the USA,, things could be put in place to prevent these things from happening, but noone wants to.

Sad indeed. The truth is us. All of us. We have become a nation of individuals, no longer a nation of we the people. And our government, whatever form it takes, be it local police or state police, are on the lookout for the next terrorist group; the next Al Qaeda. But in America over the last few years more groups of people have been killed by individuals than groups.

When will they figure this out?

From the distance of Australia, we roll our eyes at yet another example of the craziness of America. How can you continue to allow the easy sales of so many guns. We banned guns (with a few exemptions) and gun deaths fell dramatically. Why can't the great USA solve this problem?

An Australian ABC Washington correspondent recently returned from his time in the US and wrote an article about seeing gun crimes on the streets near his apartment so often that he almost became inured to it. I visited the US once in 1988 but I'll never go back - too dangerous.

A Taiwan student also planned a couple of years and advanced his plan to kill people. He did that with knifes in metro. Bad thing happened. 1 out of billion still meant quite a few. Reality we have to face.

However a person in this kid's mental state is characterised - "mentally ill"; "Aspergers"; "autistic" - the real insanity is that it's legal for such a person to own one single-shot target rifle, let alone multiple semi-automatic handguns.
And yet USA continues to persist with legislation originally applicable to the ownership of muzzle-loading muskets in an entirely different type of society, a couple of centuries ago.
Crazy, absolutely crazy.

Whenever a mass murderer is reported to have autism or Asperger's (which is now considered to be a form of autism and not a separate diagnosis), there's a big uproar about "don't say it was caused by autism." Okay, I can understand that sentiment, because in many cases it wasn't and, by and large, autistic people aren't any more dangerous than anyone else.

In this case, however, the trigger and the form of the rampage have an Asperger's signature on them. Most murders occur for logical (if hardly justified) reasons: heat of passion, for money, for power, for revenge over a personal wrong, to cover up a crime, etc. The victims are rarely strangers (terrorism aside).

A few Asperger's people, though, build up an internal anger at being unable to "fit in" to society. They've tried to fit in but they couldn't, and they blame others for not letting them fit in. The anger can build to the point that the person engages in killing strangers just to make a point, and often commits suicide at the end. "That'll show 'em."

That sure seems to be the case here, even if the autism advocates don't want to admit it.

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