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Piece #102 - The Blame Game

On HBO, there is a special program that comes on most Sundays called "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver". In one of his segments he addressed the very thing I'm going to talk about, but with a slight variation...mental health. John noted that it seems like the topic only comes up where ever there has been a mass shooting because the media has this sense that the shooter had a history of mental illness. Basically, John laid the cards out on the table and challenged law makers to do something to help the mentally challenged and give them the help they really need, not buses, retirement homes or prison! John's not kidding; a report put out by the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) found that there are ten times more mentally ill people behind bars than in State hospitals. Being put in prison isn't going to help anybody! The main topic I'm going to address is how the media and politicians throw around the term Asperger's like they want to use it as a label to justify the problem. Too many criminals of these murders that have caused so much pain to good people that were affected by these vicious events; finger pointing isn't going to solve the tragedies.

Every time there is a mass shooting, the blame seems to always be placed on this person's Asperger's disorder (or mental illness in general) and what makes me furious about this is a lot of the time, the killer was NEVER diagnosed or was 'assumed' to have the syndrome! A great example of this comes from the recent mass shooting at an Oregon community college. The mother of the shooter is a registered nurse, but she seems to think she is a registered psychiatrist as well! CNN reported on Oct 7th, 2015 that the mother had made the claim that not only did her son have Asperger's, but she, herself, had the disorder by saying "I have Asperger's and I didn't do so bad. Wasn't easy (understatement) but it can be done." Sadly, the mother never mentions any kind of psychiatric involvement in her diagnoses and treatment or her son. Because of the lack of mental medical evidence I have to openly question her, and conclude that she is giving her own self diagnoses. So here we go, throwing the word 'Asperger' around like a bouncing ball! The mother goes on to boast, "My 18 years’ worth of experience with and knowledge about Asperger's is paying off." No ma'am, I have to completely disagree; what your son had in a mental state was nothing close to Asperger's...he had something much darker and more disturbing!!! Go visit a licensed psychiatrist. People who think they can handle their own mental issue will be blinded by the help they probably need to live a good life.

Here is another sad example, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut a lone young man went in a murdered 26 lives. This story is slightly different in that this was more of a tale of two doctors: Dr. Paul Fox and Dr. Robert King. In an official document, Dr. Robert A. King, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine Child Study Center, told investigators that he had diagnosed Lanza (the shooter) with "profound Autism Spectrum Disorder, with rigidity, isolation and lack of comprehension of ordinary social interaction and communications," while also displaying symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.(AP) As you just read, Dr. King did note the Autistic characteristics, but there were much more troubling issues that superseded his disorder. In stark contrast to Dr. Fox who recalls his time with Lanza by saying: "He told police he last saw Lanza when he was about 15 years old and remembered him having aggression problems and possibly Asperger's syndrome..." (Fox News) The scary part of this professional opinion is how vague the diagnoses were to Lanza's disorder. Again, 'Asperger' is just thrown out there like it was nothing important. What would people think if a doctor just blurted out the word 'Cancer' like it was no big deal? Dr. Fox lost his license to practice here in America because of an inappropriate relationship with a patience of his...that doesn't make me feel any better. This is an excellent example of a much deeper rooted problem.

The last case I wanted to touch on was the mass shooting at the Aurora Colorado movie theater. During the trial, a decision had to be made on whether or not the shooter was 'sane' when he committed the murders. The attorneys brought in several experts and one of those was Dr. Raquel Gur who is a specialist in schizophrenia. The jury had several questions to ask her and one of those dealt with Autism. The question was "Did she consider oppositional defiance disorder or autism spectrum disorders?” then a follow-up question "Why did she rule out other disorders?" So this was Dr. Gur's answer: "She considered multiple disorders, but ruled them out in time, she said. There is overlap between the features of autism and schizophrenia, she said." This was the main reason why the media didn't jump all over autism like they did in the other two cases I spoke of earlier. I feel like the media would intentionally wait for any mention of autism if anyone happens to link the disorder to the mass murder. On a side note, the courts decided to not allow an insanity plea.

Let me give you a great example of 'news' and the media when it comes to autism. On Facebook, there was a posting circulating around about a story from the Wyoming Institute of Technology where they had the American Journal of Medicine was going to publish an article by Dr. Franklin Forrester to which the contents were going to show a direct link between Asperger's Syndrome and murder. Needless to say, many people thought the newslink was true until the Journal stated that this was a big hoax. The problem is that it doesn't matter. Even though this was just one big joke, people were exposed to the idea anyway. Why do you think the media jumps over anything with a shooting if the person possibly had a history of autism? What is created is an implied misconception. Even though the information is false, the idea of linking the mass shootings to autism is unfair, discriminatory and could cause potential problems. What if the government decided that we were all dangerous and we had to be placed under stiff restrictions? Fear causes these ideas. What this hoax creates is uncertainty and doubt. 

The bottom line is simple...violent people do violent things. There was a deep evil reason why these people chose to take the lives of innocent people. I have had classes in psychology and I've taught the subject in high school. I'm not a licensed doctor; but my point is because I have Asperger's and I know these are not typical characteristics of things we might do. In the case of these people and countless others, there is something very disturbing and sinister about why they killed a lot of people. Education is important. The media can't be the judge and jury in these cases whether the shooter may or may not have had a history of autism. Know the facts from professional people; I know they would be happy to tell you. If you can get the chance, check out John Oliver's piece on Mental Health.



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Song: "Apologize"

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Album: Dreaming Out Loud


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