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Guest Blog Do you have experience in Bipolar Country? Call for submissions

Version 3  By Merryl Hammond, PhD

I’m an avid reader of “Mind You,” and feel connected to this diverse audience of people who are also affected by mental illness/mental health issues/insert your preferred term.

I’m hoping to reach out to those of you who are affected by bipolar disorder (including cyclothymia) or schizoaffective disorder.

My background

I’m a Montreal-based nurse, with a PhD in public health and adult education. I was diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar type I in 2008 at age 51. It completely derailed me. Almost overnight, I flipped from being a researcher and health consultant to a locked ward patient. Since my recovery in 2015, I have made it my mission to educate about and de-stigmatize mental illness in general and bipolar in particular. As part of this effort, I published a best-selling memoir in 2018, Mad Like Me: Travels in Bipolar Country.

Tales from Bipolar Country: an anthology

So many people, having read Mad Like Me, have opened up to me about their own personal experiences with mental illness. I’ve heard such powerful stories that would help us if they were shared. So I have now decided to compile an anthology, Tales from Bipolar Country, that will include personal pieces from:

  • people like me who have bipolar disorder (including cyclothymia) or schizoaffective disorder;
  • our family members, friends, and informal caregivers; and finally
  • the health and many other professionals (legal, social services, therapists, etc.) who take care of us.

(Note: I am including schizoaffective disorder due to the overlapping symptoms with bipolar, common treatments, and frequent misdiagnosis as bipolar early in the course of the illness.)

Who’s participating so far?

I’m delighted to announce that a few “big names” have already agreed to join this project. Mind You’s own highly prolific author, artist, blogger and psychiatrist, Dr. David Laing Dawson will participate, along with Julie Fast (Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder; Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, among others) and Marya Hornbacher (Madness: A Bipolar Life; Sane: Mental Illness, Addiction, and the 12 Steps, among others). As well, I am approaching Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Dr. Candida Fink, actress and bipolar advocate Glenn Close, memoirist Terri Cheney, and many others.

However, I want to emphasize that you do not need to be previously published or a “big name” in the mental health community to participate. I’m looking for real stories from real people. Your perspective, your experience, your insights…

A special invitation to you

I understand that life is hectic – even more so if you have or are supporting someone with a mental health issue – but I would be honoured if you would consider contributing a short piece about your personal experience for this anthology. Deadline is end of April, 2020.

If you’re interested in exploring this project further, please email me at for Writers’ Guidelines.

Please consider this invitation, even if it means stepping way outside your comfort zone. Many say that the act of expressing themselves in writing really helps them gain perspective or promote their recovery. And I assure you I will work closely with you as an empathetic compiler/editor.

Share this call!

Please pass on this call for submissions to anyone in your network who might be interested.

Many thanks in advance for considering this request. I look forward to hearing from you.

* * *


Merryl Hammond is a health professional diagnosed with bipolar disorder ten years ago at the age of 51. In Mad Like Me: Travels in Bipolar Country, she takes readers through the vivid details of her struggles with bipolar. By being fearlessly honest in retelling events, she hopes to demystify this misunderstood mental illness, and to humanize the people it affects. Her mission is now to fight the stigma against all forms of mental illness, in all age groups. Her memoir is a testimony to hope and recovery, and to her family who stood by her through both the pain and the triumph of their shared saga. Essential reading for patients working towards recovery, families who may need insight into what it’s truly like to have bipolar disorder, and therapists, psychiatrists and other health professionals. Readers and reviewers have called it “mesmerizing,” “enlightening,” “stunningly sincere,” “beautifully written; powerfully honest,” and “a bullseye.” Her next project, Tales from Bipolar Country, will be an anthology that gives voice to people with bipolar, their family members, and the health and other professionals who work with them. Please visit or


Custodians of the Planet

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Years ago go after I had attended a band council meeting and watched representatives of this small nation wrestle with affairs that we divide up into federal, provincial, and municipal, I had dinner with a Chief. A friend had told me the Anishinaabe language contained no swear words, no blasphemes, and so I asked this Chief what his people would say when angry, when mad, even after twisting an ankle or hurting a toe. He replied with a wry smile, “You must remember, we Indians had nothing to be angry about until the white man came.”

I was thinking of this as we drove through a First Nations Reserve in the beautiful Q’Appelle valley in Saskatchewan. We have driven through many reserves this summer and there is a sameness to them: clusters of small, poor houses, randomly spaced, minimally maintained, in much the same manner as the temporary abodes of a nomadic hunting, gathering society.

And I am sure before the Europeans came the consciousness of this world, of the indigenous peoples, was limited to the land they could see, and of stories passed down through generations. And now they live on small islands surrounded by an organized nation of others, with full awareness of many other organized (or marginally) organized nations of others on this shrinking planet.

A few hundred years ago the First Nations People began to learn they did not own this land, they had no God given right to this land, this part of the earth. There were in fact hordes of others seeking refuge, a field to till, a place to live and raise a family. In truth the lore of the First Nations People had always been more about stewardship and custodian responsibilities for the land and it’s abundance than ownership.

There is a connection here with Marvin’s blog, for we are now, all of us, in the position of being First Nations 400 years ago. And what I am talking about, as Hungary closes its borders, as Britain isolates itself, as Maxime Bernier shouts NO to immigrants, as the US rounds them up, is that we must accept, as the First Nations People had to, that we are collectively just custodians on this small planet. We “own” nothing. And if we are to survive we must do a better job as custodians, and where there is bounty we must share, and where there is trouble we all must help.

The indigenous people, a few hundred years ago, did not know there would one day be a Brazil. And 50 years ago I’m sure I did not know the Amazon was responsible for 20 percent of the Earth’s oxygen, the cycle of stripping carbon from CO2 and releasing oxygen to the air. But, apparently it is, and it is burning.

Canada has pledged $15 million and water bombers to combat the fires, on top of $20 million promised in a G7 meeting. Trump skipped the meeting.

The good news here is that, apart from Trumpland, we are beginning to accept the fact that we are collectively mere custodians of a fragile planet and must take this role seriously.

Whoops, I wrote too soon. I forgot we have managed to elect so many stupid narcissistic teenage boys to high office and positions of power.

Refugees and Hypocrisy

By Marvin Ross

Image by heblo from Pixabay

I’ve just finished reading By Chance Alone, a book of Holocaust survival, life as a refugee and eventual settlement in Toronto. Max Eisen, the author, is a Hungarian Jew who was rounded up with his family, neighbours and relatives from a small city in Hungary and sent off to Auschwitz. He was a young teenager at the time and the only one in his family to survive.

For many years, he has travelled across Canada lecturing about his life to schools, universities and even the York Region police cadets, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Canadian Forces College. He is one of many who devote their senior years to reminding us of what happened but, sadly, few of us listen. The world today is full of refugees fleeing war, poverty and misery while fascism, Neo-Nazis and white supremacy are once again growing.

In 2015, Eisen went back to Germany to testify at the trial of the SS official who was known as the bookkeeper. He was in charge of gathering valuables such as money, jewellery and gold crowns pulled from the mouths of gassed Hungarian Jews. When enough was accumulated, he carried the ill gotten gains in a large suitcase to a bank in Berlin a few times a week. The man was convicted but still maintained his innocence as a man simply following orders.

Mr Eisen commented “I have a great deal of concern for humanity should a supremacist ideology take hold again. It will be a threat to our way of life and our freedom.”

Sadly, this is exactly what is happening in many parts of the world and Mr Eisen puts into words the warning signs that we are presently seeing in many countries today. One of those warning signs is the increasing anti-semitism in the US particularly among Christian evangelicals.

Prior to and during the war, Canada and the US were reluctant to take in refugees fleeing Hitler. Canada’s policy towards Jews fleeing Hitler as described by  historian, Irving Abella was “none is too many”. The refugee ship, the St Louis carrying 900 Jewish refugees was denied entry into Canada and the US and the passengers all returned to Europe and their deaths.

After the war, both Canada and the US began welcoming refugees. First the Holocaust survivors, then thousands of Hungarians in 1956 fleeing Communism after the uprising. All have been an asset and contributed to the nations they settled in. Then there were the boat people from Vietnam, the South Asians kicked out of Uganda by Idi Amin and countless others.

Thankfully, Canada has been quite open in letting in many from the wars in the Middle East and we now have a situation where in the past two years an estimate 45,000 people have come here via unofficial border crossings into Quebec from the US.

Refugees from Trump.

The US, in contrast, rounds up undocumented workers in its country and separates children from their parents on the southern border and locks them up in abysmal conditions.

The pressure of refugees is growing and, thus far, Canada has continued to offer them sanctuary although some are referring to those coming from the US outside of formal border posts as illegal entrants. These are the right wing politicians who do not understand that under international law, refugees are to be accommodated. Right wing politicians in Canada have argued for tests of Canadian values to determine who should be let in. They have also proposed a tip line to report those with barbaric practices.

Sadly, parts of Europe are forgetting their own history and acting despicably. Hungary, which gave the world so many fleeing people in the 50s, is now barring any refugees from its land. Recently, the news reported on a refugee boat in the Mediterranean that was not being allowed to land in Italy despite the horrible conditions on board. Italy has conveniently forgotten that so many of their countrymen migrated to North America for better lives which they found.

What stuck me about Max Eisen’s survival (a Jew) was the help he got from a Pole. Eisen was struck on the back of the head with a rifle butt by a German guard and carried unconscious to the camp hospital. The chief surgeon was a Polish physician, Dr Tadeusz Orzeszko, who was being held as a political prisoner. As Eisen recovered from his surgery, he was offered the chance to work in the camp hospital assisting with operations.

Max and the doctor became separated with the advance of the Red Army and the start of the Death March where the Germans forced the prisoners to march away from the camp and freedom to another one closer to Germany. They never did meet again but in 2010, Max met the now deceased doctor’s family at a reception in Warsaw. He has maintained a close friendship with the doctor’s son and then learned that Dr Orzeszko’s granddaughter, Julia, named her baby son Max in his honour.

The camp that Eisen was moved to after the Death March was liberated by the 761st Tank Battalion or the Black Panthers – a segregated unit of the US Army as, by law, Blacks were not allowed to serve alongside whites. One officer in that unit had been Jackie Robinson who broke the colour bar in major league baseball.

If we are not to descend into the actions of Nazi Germany, we will need to begin acting with more humanity than we have been. Germany, after all, has been trying and Angela Merkel deserves a great deal of praise. The hordes of refugees will continue to grow and we need to develop a compassionate policy to help them.

Art and Schizophrenia Follow-Up

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Marvin’s recent piece and the comments that followed got me thinking about art and schizophrenia. There is a brief period in child development between the time a child can hold and manipulate a pencil or brush to make marks on paper and the time they begin to think and speak in symbolic language. That is the period, I think, Picasso was referring to when he spoke of retaining the gifts of a child to draw and paint as a child. For it is in that period that a child draws, perhaps with varying degrees of skill, what he or she sees or perceives at the moment, rather than what they expect to see.

With the development of symbolic language we begin to see what we expect to see and only in the amount of detail that we need. And the child then begins to draw not what is actually before their eyes but symbols. Hence a tree becomes a green popsicle on a stick, the sun a yellow orb in the sky with yellow rays, a house becomes a box with peaked roof, and humans become stick figures.

Generally we adults see what we expect to see but we can be persuaded to take a second look by others, by circumstances, by choice. In a delusional state the afflicted person also sees what they expect to see and they perceive what they see in a manner that supports their delusion. It is also impossible to persuade them to take a second look for to do so would shatter a conviction.

And that may be where the making of art and art therapy comes in. It offers the troubled, afflicted, delusional person a non threatening place to go back, back before symbolic thinking developed, and learn to see again.

And of course it also offers that which I think every artist pursues, and that is the possibility of reliving the moment when mother once took your childhood scribble in hand and exclaimed, “This is wonderful. My very own little Picasso. This is going right on the refrigerator door.”

Young Male Killers

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Several factors or conditions are needed to produce a mass killing. Examining them may inform prevention.

The first is simple maleness. The very instinct that causes boys to skip a stone on the pond, or push a toy car into a pile of blocks is behind the shooting of a gun. Effectance Behaviour. The impulse to cause an effect.

But this impulse or instinct can have very positive effects. So what makes a young man express this instinct in such an evil manner?

Social isolation: the absence of many adolescent years of successful socialization with nuance and inclusivity.

Failure: Failure to achieve meaningful relationships, memberships, and meaningful roles and activities.

Autistic Spectrum: the rigid, moralistic, “black and white” thinking of autism makes the autistic boy vulnerable to screeds, to simplistic amoral solutions and explanations.

The Internet: this now provides the vulnerable young, isolated male with a plethora of anti-social philosophies and calls to action, as well as heroes to emulate, and virtual friends to please.

Trigger or evolving mental illness: radical ideas and obsessions can evolve into delusions, including that of a suicide mission.

Sanction: A voice of authority giving a direct or indirect call to action, coupled with a dehumanizing message, e.g. cockroaches, vermin.

Arms: Readily available guns, especially automatic weapons with high magazine capacity.

As with all social and health problems some of these conditions are very difficult to detect and change. Others require improving that which exists: inclusive excellent public schools for example, and programs that ensure every teen transition to meaningful adulthood. And some of these conditions speak loudly for obvious and straightforward remedy.

Brace for More – Inspired by the Canadian Manhunt for Two Teens

By Dr David Laing Dawson


In the ordinary course of development the adolescent years are ones in which the partially formed human being interacts with, bounces against, parents, siblings, teachers, coaches, music teachers, neighbours, peers, boys and girls, during supervised and unsupervised periods, strangers, competitors, bosses, rules, laws, expectations, in real time and real life, mostly from the same culture, speaking the same language.

And during these roughly ten years of negotiation the developing brain and personality of this young human being figure out at least some fundamental parameters of life. These include sexuality, value, worth, competence, control, power, responsibility, empathy, role, membership. Consciousness broadens, widens, and deepens.

People in this culture are fond of using the words “found himself”, or “followed her dream”, but really it is a process of genetic makeup being shaped by interactions with others. Real interactions. Real interactions, partial interactions, and even avoided interactions.

And always in those developing periods there have been opportunities for fantasy play and make believe, from role playing games to books to horror movies and dress up. And most developing humans have the capacity to tell the difference, to separate the make believe from the real.

Roughly 20 years have passed since video games and websites and forums and social media began their all encompassing exponential growth, with the games and forums and videos becoming more and more engrossing and “real”, and with the brief speak of texting plus emojis replacing the far more nuanced verbal and nonverbal communication of one human facing another.

And for some adolescents these have totally replaced those ten years of interacting in the real world, those ten years that allow the unfolding of identity, wishes, wants, friendships, sexuality, roles and purpose within the bounds of most community expectations in this real world.

There is a harmless side to it. It allows some of us to use this fantasy world as a way of more comfortably entering the real world: anime, comic, sci-fi and game conventions, dress up, animal costumes, Fortnite contests, online friendships.

But for others, that adolescent blank but yearning slate of questions about “sexuality, value, worth, competence, control, power, responsibility, empathy, role, membership” can be wholly filled with the primitive certainties of the virtual world. And these virtual worlds range from the medieval to the messianic, preaching entitlements, quests, wars, greed, conspiracies and revenge.

So brace for more in the future.

But in the meantime it behooves all parents and teachers and counselors and mental health professionals to try to pry the vulnerable teen away from his or her computer at least for part of the day, and help them find a place in the real world.

Political Correctness and Medicine

By Marvin Ross

I always thought that the only area of medicine that applied absurd political correctness concepts to the detriment of those needing help was in the treatment of those with serious mental health illnesses. I was wrong. And note that I am not being politically correct when I say mental health illnesses rather than mental health issues and problems.

Readers of this blog probably need no introduction to one of the main deterrents to treatment for people who are ill and do not know they are ill. In most jurisdictions in North America, it is hard to hospitalize someone against their will when they are very ill because we bend over backwards to defend their rights to not be hospitalized. Better to let them live on the street or be in jail than to force them into a medical institution.

Sadly, Ontario goes even further by allowing someone who is hospitalized involuntarily because they pose a danger to themselves or others to then refuse the treatment that will enable them  to get well. Consequently, there are people in hospitals for years left sick and untreated because we respect their right to not take medication.

It turns out that we apply the same stupid rules to those with Alzheimer’s. In Ontario, at least. A number of years ago, I arranged for my mother to go into a nursing home because she had dementia. She had been assessed at a geriatric facility in Toronto described as “a global leader in geriatric residential living, healthcare, research, innovation and education, with a special focus on brain health and aging”. She did not have Alzheimer’s but dementia which was visible on MRI studies of her brain.

As a result, I had no difficulty finding a suitable nursing home for her. She was not happy going into it but she did become a long term resident for probably well over 20 years, enjoyed her stay and was well cared for. It was probably the mid 1980s when she went there.

Fast forward to today and I am the power of attorney for someone with Alzheimer’s as his family is spread around the globe with no one locally to look after his needs. The disease has robbed him of his ability to have any insight into his diagnosis much like anasognosia for those with serious mental illness. His Alzheimer’s was diagnosed by a leading Toronto hospital affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He has been assessed countless times with the standard mini mental status exam and it is obvious talking to him that he has dementia.

But here is the thing. He is not capable and while he lived alone, he had to have substantial support at home and he was going to a day program for those with dementia. When a spot opened for him at a very good home for dementia patients, we arranged for him to be admitted. He refused, of course, and as his power of attorney, I was worried about moving him and selling his condo. I spoke to the social worker at the geriatric unit who told me that his test scores were bad and that if I listened to him and did not have him placed, I would be remiss in my duties.

Two members of his family flew to Toronto and had him placed there. He got used to it and is happy and safe.

The problem for the future is that the home is not capable of providing intensive nursing care so their residents will eventually need to be moved to a nursing home. With the aging population, there is a shortage of these beds and a long waiting list. Beds in acute care hospitals and dementia homes are held by people who need nursing home but are occupying beds until a place opens up in a more appropriate setting, As this individual is starting to deteriorate, I tried to fill out an application for a nursing home to prepare for his future needs.

Turns out that is now complicated. Ontario has a bureaucracy called the Community Care Access Centres which co-ordinates home care and placements. It is a huge bureaucracy which no longer exists by name as it was merged with another large bureaucracy but the functions are there. My charge has a case worker who authorized some minimal home care for him and did periodic assessments. I called her to get an application and left a voice mail.

Next day, I received a call that they cannot send me an application because his file is inactive and I have to start intake all over again. It will only take a few minutes and I was transferred to someone else who took down the information they already have. I was told I would get a call to arrange a new assessment. Another one.

I then got a call from someone who I could not understand on my my voice mail but I did get the phone number and extension. I fully expected the person who called to answer but no, I got someone else. She had no idea who called me or why but found the name of the case manager who would call me. When I did get to talk to the case manager, I was told that she must do an assessment because his last assessment was a year ago and his status might have changed.

Of course it has, I told her. He has Alzheimer’s which does not go away and is progressive. In the past year, he has gone to living alone with support to needing a home. He now has a small GPS device in case he gets separated from his caregiver while out which did happen. And he will continue to deteriorate and will eventually need a nursing home. I wanted to put in the application because it can take 2-3 years to find a good one. Regardless, she said, I have to test his competence and tell him we are applying for a nursing home.

But if you tell him about a nursing home, it will set him off and he may not recover from that. He denies he has the disease and he thinks he is employed at the day program he goes to. His competency can be assessed without the need to tell him. I have to tell him she said. It is only fair and I cannot hide it from him.

As a result, I told her no. I will wait until he deteriorates to the point where his placement is an emergency and he will remain in a bed that someone else could use until the system finds him a place that is more appropriate. This is a problem that is happening throughout Ontario. Patients blocking beds in acute care hospitals they do not need because they need a nursing home and can’t find one. And the blame for all this goes to the bureaucrats.

Since this encounter, the Canadian government announced a $50 million dementia strategy that includes prevention and anti-stigma. Sound familiar to the mental illness advocates? How does one prevent Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia when the causes are not known? What does stigma have to do with anything. As an aside, I wrote a book on Alzheimer’s in the late 1980’s and nothing has changed from then. Same with our treatment of schizophrenia. My 10 year old book on Schizophrenia is pretty much as relevant today as it was in 2008 when it came out.

Climate Change and Sharks

Image by Hermann Traub from Pixabay

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I was reading today about the “climate change deniers” Trump is putting on a panel, The Presidential Committee on Climate Security. One of these people has publicly compared our demonizing of CO2 to Hitler’s attitude toward Jews.

But, overall, the tone that strikes me most is that of adolescent thinking processes.

That’s where sharks come in.

If you ask a child the simple question, “Would you swim with sharks?” almost all will quickly and firmly say “No.”

If you ask an adult if he or she would be willing to swim with sharks the answer comes quickly and in the same form as the child’s. “No. Are you kidding?”

But if you ask the same question of a teenager what often follows is a pause, some consideration and deep thought, some partial sentences, some qualifications, some reasoning such as, “Well, humans are not the natural prey of sharks….so…”

They are exercising their newly formed reasoning processes, often arriving at something like, “In a supervised pool, with a well fed shark, and ensuring that I am not bleeding anywhere, I think the odds of surviving are pretty good, so yeah, maybe I’d try it.”

Similarly the adolescent male’s reasoning process can arrive at the following conclusion: “I think there is an 80% chance that I can make this sharp turn driving at 100 K an hour (in mom’s car) without crashing, so let’s go for it.”

What is missing is perspective in the adolescent thinking, and in the climate change debate. An 80% chance of winning would be wonderful at a casino, and not too bad for a necessary heart operation. But not for taking unnecessary risks with one’s life.

Risk benefit analysis requires a pretty clear understanding of the potential long term results for self and others. This is often a task for which the adolescent brain is not yet equipped. This is not always a bad thing. For it is our youth, our teenagers, who are willing to embark on a journey with only 10% chance of success.

The consequence of persistent global warming is the destruction of human life on this planet, preceded by years of increasing turmoil, migration, wars, destruction, suffering. Though not of my life or the lives of Mr. Trump’s proposed panel.

Is man made CO2 the cause? The cause or a major contributor?

The facts and the science support this to be the case with a small percentage of doubters. If the consequences of being wrong were minor we should let the argument continue. But they are far from minor.

Even if the odds were only 40% that man-made CO2 is a major contributor, we are not adolescents and so, considering the stakes for my grandchildren and their grandchildren….

And therein may lie the problem. Though Trump’s experts have adult brains perhaps they do not have the ability to imagine what life will be like in Africa, India, the small islands in our oceans, out coastal communities, our plains, and for our grandchildren – that is, for others.

Of Insects and Teenagers.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The other day I sat with a father and his 16 year old daughter. She was curled up in her chair, head bent over her phone, constantly texting seven friends. She did listen to the conversation though and stated that she was quite capable of “multi-tasking”. Then her head would go down again and her thumbs would flit about the screen of her phone. She was not attending school.

And it occurred to me that what I was observing was a hive. I was thinking bees, garden variety bees, drones at work in swarms and single file.

Bees are not quite Borgs. Each bee is a single entity but capable of working, moving in unison, in tandem, in swarms, subsuming any individual needs or impulses to the needs and actions of the hive. And though we know some genetics may be involved we also know this is achieved through constant communication. Movement and pheromones, choreography and smell.

The other thing we know about bees is that a hive is a hive and that it does not play well with other hives.

And something we know about humans is that though they have evolved to the head of the food chain, each carries within him or her the seeds of regression, the DNA of the species that came before us.

Pulling these disparate thoughts together was the smartphone, for suddenly, at least quite suddenly in historic terms, an instrument has landed in the hands of our adolescents that allows them to be bees, to form hives, albeit fragile hives, through a constant (24/7) stream of communication, checking and monitoring and correcting behaviour, appearance, pecking order, membership, attitude and bond.

Like bees, membership in one hive precludes membership in another. Unlike bees though, one misstep in these communications can bring expulsion from the hive, and unlike bees these teens have a full range of non-hive impulses, other needs to satisfy, other loyalties to balance, often in conflict with the hive.

The tendency to hive was always there among us humans, especially our adolescents, but usually limited by other loyalties, activities, communication time, boundaries and realities. A gang might form only when those other loyalties were weak or poor or broken.

We used to talk of peer pressure, peer pressure in conflict with the expectations of parents, and sometimes in conflict with the health and welfare of the teen. But back then unsupervised peer communication was limited to a few hours a day.

And now, quite suddenly, it is far more than this. The constant buzz and hum of the smartphone turns “peer pressure” into hives.

No wonder our adolescents are collapsing with anxiety or hiding in their rooms with increasing frequency.

New Zealand – Can These Events be Predicted and Prevented?

By Dr David Laing Dawson

There will always be young men whose sense of unfairness, disappointment, failure, and loss can be shaped into a delusional world view, a fantasy of causation, of blame, of a specific enemy, and of their own fantasized role righting these wrongs.

At what stage in this progression can we act to prevent tragedy? At what stage in this progression do we actually have the tools to prevent tragedy?

1. The asocial, narcissistic, vulnerable young man.

2. Social reinforcement of the delusional solution.

Not long ago this would mean reading pamphlets and joining a group, or a clandestine group, a rebel group. But today such groups are readily available on our computer screens. And my guess is that joining a “rebel group” in real life brings about some reality checks and some socialization, (ISIS excepted), while joining an internet group does not.

3. Avoidance of social groups that could counter the developing delusion.

Perhaps easier to achieve now than 50 years ago, with more and more young people staring at a screen all day, and with the development of silos or bubbles of manufactured reality and personalized news feeds.

4. Finding information to support one’s developing delusion.

In the past this might have entailed reading some history and philosophy, attending talks in basements. Today it is shouted at us in podcasts.

5. Finding “heroes” to emulate or imitate.

Again we no longer need prowl through libraries and read history. The exploits of others are readily available at our fingertips.

6. Being encouraged by the careless words of leaders (Presidents) and opinion leaders.

These words, careless or self-serving, or downright racist, are no longer found on a second page column, but repeated in endless news cycles and social media.

7. Desensitization.

Many serious crimes follow a period of desensitization through the commission of smaller crimes. It is a way of managing anxiety and fear. Again, today, a perfect desensitization process can be found in First Person Shooter video games, with the “targets” becoming more life-like every year.

8. Secrets must be shared.

After each mass killing we find bread crumb clues, shared ideas, internet postings, and full manifestos that hint at what is to come,

9. Acquisition of serious weapons, assault rifles, ammunition.

The weapon available can make the difference between a couple of injuries and 49 deaths.