Each time there is a tragedy of the human violence variety, many people in government and media rush to find something to blame.
Like every other human who is honest with themselves, I don’t know what we can blame for murderous violence…I don’t know what causes a person to decide to go out and take other human lives and hurt and terrorize people with intention. Like everyone else, I have some ideas, but I’m not going to post about that here.
I’m going to talk about things that DON’T cause it.
But I personally have anxiety, and I have many friends who live with anxiety and depression and other mental health issues and none of them are violent. I don’t cultivate friendships with violent people. So whenever a violent tragedy occurs (which seems to be regularly, unfortunately), and the media and/or government officials claim that it’s a ‘mental health problem,’ it hurts me. The information is readily available to prove that mental health and violence are not correlated, and yet that idea is forwarded after every episode of mass violence. This further stigmatizes mental health issues and can further limit already limited access to treatment for those who need it. A simple majority of people with mental health issues don’t seek treatment, because of a combination of social stigma (that blaming mental illness for mass violence perpetuates), and (especially) economic factors. Insurance won’t cover therapy; or not the kind of therapy needed; or not enough therapy, and getting it without coverage is cost prohibitive for many Americans who need it. So even if mental illness really WAS correlated with violence (even though it is NOT), no priority is given to helping people who need it receive proper treatment.
I don’t believe bullying causes violence either.
The reason I believe this is that almost all mass violence perpetrators are white boys and men; it is an extremely rare exception for a girl or woman to commit an act of mass violence.
And speaking as a former girl and current woman…we get bullied and harassed ALL THE TIME. I’ve experienced it. I’ve seen it. I’ve heard first, second, and third hand accounts of it. We are touched without permission. Verbally abused. Sometimes even assaulted or sexually assaulted. I have a friend from high school who was emotionally and socially bullied so severely by other girls, she told me she had seriously contemplated suicide. But she never brought a gun to school.
I’m white. So I don’t have any first hand experience with the trials of being a person of color in America, but I do have friends who aren’t white, and I’ve been in the same vicinity as people of color and I’ve also seen and heard first, second, and third hand accounts of the bullying they face. Racial slurs. ‘Jokes.’ Mocking of accents or traditional dress and customs. Cultural appropriation. Profiling. They are also on the receiving end of verbal abuse, entitled privacy and space invasion, and assault. And it is a rare exception for a mass shooter/perpetrator of an act of mass violence to be a person of color (I can’t recall one instance off the top of my head; just like with girls and women; whereas I can name a dozen white boys/men who have committed such crimes).
I don’t have any information on LGBT+ mass shooters, or disabled shooters either, and people who belong to these marginalized groups are regularly mocked, ridiculed, and even victims of violence. Since these events make the news regularly, and not to brag, but my memory is pretty sharp, and I can’t think of one.
In fact, when girls/women, and members of other marginalized groups (PARTICULARLY people of color) individually retaliate, even with mere verbal sparring, they are more than likely painted the villain of the piece.
So when we want to blame a mass shooting or other mass act of violence on the poor treatment of the individual committing it…I don’t buy it.
I’m not denying that living with abuse can produce poor abilities to cope, and that abuse doesn’t cause individual problems that ripple out to those around the abused, and that can present in negative and even violent ways. But bullying doesn’t CAUSE or EXCUSE violence.
Like many other people, I’m not sure where the blame should be placed for these tragic events, and I’m not sure the best way to prevent and eliminate them in the long run. But I am pretty sure about things that DON’T cause them. I don’t think bullying does. And I’m positive mental illness doesn’t either.
(I worry about my son every day he goes to school because of these events.)