All the reports flooded into my home through the radio, tv, and my phone. I felt as if I couldn’t do anything but share opinions with my family. But then I thought about an interview I did with Roundhouse Radio in the U.K back in April of 2018. The interview was about the mass murder on April 9th where an armed man walked about waiving a gun threatening to shoot people.
I began to recount the things I discussed with the media there.
Having been in psychology for 11 years, I strongly believe there is an interplay between environment, genes, and delusional beliefs cemented by social and cultural influences that push certain people to carry out mass murders. With a greater understanding of the potential causes of mass murders, I believe we can reduce the incidences of these crimes. We must start by understanding and studying potential causes.
I firmly believe the following keeps our society confused about why mass murders happen within our communities:
- Mass ignorance of mental illness: it’s sad to say but mental illness continues to be influenced by stigma. When mass murders occur we rarely consider that perhaps the murderer is an individual who hasn’t sought treatment and is in deep need of psychiatric treatment.
- Fear of stigma = no talk of the obvious: In order to reduce mental health stigma most people engage in minimizing a very obvious issue or placing blame on something else. For example, in the political debates about what happened in Parkland Florida after Nicholas opened fire in his school killing 17 students, the main issue was either gun control or hate. Mass murder is an issue with a combination of factors that we must pay attention to and sometimes one of those factors includes untreated mental illness and delusional thinking.
- Lack of attention to risk factors: Risk factors are things that make us more susceptible to challenges within our homes, schools, and communities. Risk factors include an unstable upbringing, untreated mental illness, substance abuse, growing up in a violent or impoverished neighborhood, child abuse and neglect, etc. It’s fair to surmise that perhaps risk factors contributed to Robert Bowers senseless crime.
- Not recognizing or ignoring signs: It is so easy to speculate and label mass murder as “hate” to offer comfort to those in our society when something senseless like this happens. But are we taking attention away from other potential causes of a mass murder by doing this? Perhaps. It is important we understand how to address such tragedies from a balanced perspective. I do wonder how Robert Bowers slipped through the cracks of our society. Were signs ignored? Perhaps.
- Lack of crisis protocols: Having a plan on how to cope with a crisis is important. Knowing how to rebound from a traumatic event is even more important. I do hope the Pittsburgh Synagogue will aim to incorporate crisis protocols to avoid a tragedy in the future. And this does not include having an armed guard in the synagogue.
I offer my condolences and extend prayers to the many families who are struggling right now. I pray we find ways to educate each other and incorporate the protocols needed to protect our loved ones.
To learn more about this tragedy, click here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2018/10/27/pittsburgh-police-responding-active-shooting-squirrel-hill-area/?noredirect=on