Better handling of mental illness could reduce mass killings


The recent rash of mass shootings, including two at schools in the Pacific Northwest, is horrific.

We, as a nation, need to realistically look at what can be done to diminish the root cause of this senseless violence — mental-health issues. The relatively easy access to high-powered weapons in this country can’t be ignored, but over and over we find that in most cases the shooters have serious, long-running mental illnesses.

The recent shooting at Seattle Pacific University, which left one dead and two wounded, is an example. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said the suspect, Aaron Rey Ybarra, had stopped taking his mental health medications to sharpen his rage.

“He wanted to feel the hate,” Satterberg said.

And Ybarra is believed to have given thought to which school to target. He considered Washington State University, Eastern Washington University and Central Washington University before deciding on Seattle Pacific.

In a journal recovered by police, Ybarra wrote that he admired the mass shootings at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech. He thought of those killers as role models, Satterberg said.

“I just want people to die, and I’m going to die with them!” Ybarra wrote in his final journal entry.

He is clearly insane. His mental problems had been detected, as evidenced by the fact he was seeing a therapist and on medication.

Yet, this happened.

We, as a society, want to do all that can be done to help those with issues rather than simply locking them away.

That approach is sound, and the right thing to do. A great deal can be done to successfully help people cope with their inner demons. It is only a few extremely troubled individuals who go on such rampages.

Unfortunately, when family and friends of those exhibiting potentially dangerous behavior alert authorities, too often nothing happens.

Just last month in Santa Barbara, Elliot Rodger went on a killing rampage that left six dead and 13 injured.

The 22-year-old man’s mother had grave concerns about her son. She contacted his therapist, who contacted police.

Six law enforcement officers went to his house but they found nothing alarming. Police reassured his mother he was OK.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said after the shooting, his deputies “determined Rodger did not meet the criteria for an involuntary hold. Mental health cases, he told CNN, are a “delicate balance.”

“You want to certainly intervene and obviously try to prevent a tragedy such as we’ve experienced here,” Brown said. “On the same token, you don’t want to stigmatize people who are seeking treatment for mental illness and you don’t want to prevent them from doing so because of the potential stigma that’s attached. It’s a double-edged sword in some respects.”

That it is. But it can’t be ignored.


chicoli 1 year, 5 months ago

Australia, England, Canada, Switzerland and other civilized, industrialized countries have similar mental disorders incidence as we do in USA. The difference is we do have incredibly permissive gun laws at a difference from those countries.


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