Last Friday FOX news breathlessly reported that lack of gun control is not the reason for the rate of mass murder seen in the US. According to the US right wingers the issue is suddenly no longer video games or drugs, but psychiatry. I find it particularly aggravating that the issue is reported as if the issues of psychiatry and gun crime are somehow mutually exclusive .

Fox gunt nuts Psychiatrists dont kill people, guns do

Taken from a report by Fox News this Friday

On Saturday Al Frances (the prominent psychiatrist known for chairing the DSM-IV task force and one of DSM-V’s harshest critics) wrote an editorial rebutting the claims:

There is a presumption that if (you) can understand the mind of the mass murderer then perhaps we can prevent the mass murders. This is dead wrong. Psychiatry has no way of predicting or preventing rare and fairly random acts of senseless violence- it is simply impossible to find needles in haystacks. We must accept the fact that a small cohort of deranged and disaffected potential mass murderers will always exist undetected in our midst. The only questions are how often will these ticking time bombs go off and how much damage will they do when detonated.

The largely unnoticed elephant in the room is how astoundingly easy it always is for the killers to buy supercharged firearms and unlimited rounds of ammo. The ubiquity of powerful weaponry is what makes the US such a dangerous place to live. Guns do kill people and the number of people depends on the number of guns and the number of rounds they can fire in a given period of time. Successful political scare tactics have buried open discussion of the most obvious of simple truths- that the wide circulation of powerful semi-automatic weapons will inevitably result in a lot of preventable deaths. So don’t be at all surprised when there are a couple of mass murders every year- it is built into our current system. The US has the one of developed world’s worst statistics for mass murders and gun deaths because we have so many powerful guns floating around and gun laws that allow murderers easy access to them.

Add to the mix the egregiously vitriolic and verbally violent discourse of demagogic politicians and talk show hosts- egging on those vulnerable to physical violence and providing them with a seeming justification for their callous brutality.

There are certainly issues regarding the role of psychiatry in our lives, foremost of these is the rapidly approaching controversial publication of DSM-5, the psychiatrist’s textbook. Funny how the right wing press have remained deadly silent on this issue until they require a scapegoat for the tragic effects of the gun laws they so violently support. Unfortunately, it is now probably too late to reform DSM-5, dozens of professional organisations including the British Psychologyical Society as well as 12,000 individuals registered concerns. Did you hear a pip-squeak from the right wing press? No, because when it mattered, it wasn’t on their bogus, populist reactionary agenda.

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  • Ross Gordon

    Hey, love the post, but wish you’d talked a little bit more about the content of the Fox News article. As I understand it, Ablow’s argument is that psychiatry fails because it has too little power to identify and respond to psychopathology. The problem is not with psychiatry itself, but rather with the reticence to use psychiatric resources to respond pre-emptively to people who might be disposed towards violence. This is polar opposite the criticisms of the DSM-V, which largely stem from concerns that psychiatry will become too powerful, or that we will be too quick to label people with psychiatric conditions. If you’re trying to understand why some on the right wing are critical here, but not of the DSM-V, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say it’s because they think we need more psychiatry, not less of it.

    • Neurobonkers

      You make an excellent point and I must say I agree. I admit, based upon my past experience (click the FOX hastag) I don’t make a habit of reading FOX in great depth and somewhat skimmed the article. I’m working on a tight deadline so don’t have time to write an elaborate blog post right now, this was really just a pointer to Al Frances’ wise words.

      I’ll certainly have to dig deeper in to this topic when I’ve got some free time, I wonder if anyone out there would commission me, if there are any editors out there reading, there’s a nice deep investigative piece in the offing here.

  • Chris Ojosverdes

    From what I gather about the Fox article is that indeed, maybe some sort of proffesional screening could take place, but what the writer argues about is that even civilians should be informed and look out for symptoms of mental illnesses. That could easily lead to a witch hunt in my opinion and stigmatize people. I live in greece, so I am in no position to tell in what state the psychiatric health care system is in USA, but I doubt that what the writer proposes could happen. And of course, I agree Neurobonkers on the matter of guns. It does feel like the Fox writer is trying to draw attention away from the gun issue. And by the way, his story about his friend, is screaming “emotional manipulation” from miles away!

  • Jeanette Bartha

    Terrific post, keep at the APA. We need people like you.

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