Dallas, Baton Rouge and Untreated Mental Illness

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The two most recent mass killings in the US were murder suicides, in my opinion. The murder of police officers and the entirely predictable “suicide by cop” that quickly followed. There were previous incidents that provoked these acts and there certainly are contributing causal elements in the racial wounds of contemporary America.

And once again it is worth pointing out these two men had access to weapons any sensible country would restrict.

But this time each man exhibited signs of mental illness as well. I mention this because of the current controversies about anti-depressant medication mentioned in Marvin’s latest blog.

From what I have read about them I think both of these men would have benefited from treatment with antidepressants. Rather than causing violence this treatment may have prevented it. The ex marine who traveled from Kansas City to Baton Rouge may have benefited from anti-psychotic medication as well.

So while these incidents speak to the great divide in America today, to their insane gun laws, the social wounds that need to be addressed, they also speak to accessibility (or lack thereof) of mental health care, and by mental health care, I really mean psychiatric treatment for mental illness.

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6 thoughts on “Dallas, Baton Rouge and Untreated Mental Illness

  1. With all the respect everyone deserves, I do firmly believe the sustainable solution will be PREVENTION not curing the ill; I believe that every government and every individual has a moral- social obligation to attempt alleviating the many tension this society is creating due to technology, social, racial, religion or economical influences. Once more THE BEST CURE IS PREVENTION!!

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  2. Only in America ?
    No, the Nice killer had been diagnosed with depression in Tunisia a few years earlier….
    His family knew he wasn’t well, his wife had kicked him out,. she could not stand the violence anymore.
    We have opened the Pandora’s box

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    1. From David Dawson:

      Annick, you are probably right. The killer in Nice apparently had a history of depression and domestic violence. Domestic violence is a common finding in the lives of mass killers. And domestic violence is, unfortunately, often a symptom of untreated mood disorder in men.

      And depression is one of the factors that could make a man vulnerable to radicalization.

      But for this population we not only have to make psychiatric treatment available we have to find a way to convince them to seek help.
      The latter is a tall order. And once they seek help, say from a family doctor, the doctor needs to understand that, at least for men, anger is often a front for, or defense for, depression. Anger is an immediately apparent, quick, emotion. The uncovering of depression may take time and patience.

      But while we wait for the biological and social evolution proposed by another comment we could control the guns, make psychiatric care and treatment more available, and work to change attitudes, especially male attitudes, about mental illness and treatment.

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  3. So very true…those people with undiagnosed mental illness that are becoming more and more ill have little to no chance of even getting an appointment with a psychiatrist until it is a crisis situation where the person is presented to the emergency department. That only occurs if the person has some insight into something being very “out of whack” in their own mental health or if a family member brings their loved one in out of complete helplessness. The chances of getting help is really a case of too little, too late very often in Canada. That is my experience.

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