The Wall Street Journal Letter to the Editor — 1/3/2014
To the Editor:
No mental health policy changes would have had any effect on the Sandy Hook murders. The killer in that case, 20 year-old Adam Lanza, enjoyed his murderous “contest,” wherein he wanted to commit a bloodier and more notorious murderous atrocity than Anders Breivik in Norway, who killed 77 people in a shooting and bomb attack, and/or Seung-Hui Cho, mass murderer at Virginia Tech.
It is disheartening to say the least to find the WSJ’s accepting of the shibboleths of the mental health field in believing that “mental illness,” not human agency, motivates murderous acts.
This recommendation not only constitutes a major ideological white flag of surrender, but it also undermines the criminal justice system, weighed down by thousands (albeit a small percentage in the criminal justice system) of bogus insanity pleas and “expert testimony”-induced mitigation of sentences. You may as well support nationwide investigations by physicians of the crippling effect of “Affluenza,” as long as the analysis is supervised, again, by “physicians.”
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The WSJ advocates liberalization of involuntary commitment laws to allow the psychiatric community to deprive citizens’ freedom at a lower threshold. You cite positively days in which hundreds of thousands of involuntarily committed citizens were incarcerated. There is a problem in the U.S. with dangerous people, but if they would be seriously prosecuted for threats (assault), instead of being indulged by the therapeutic community, it would literally remove such potential violent risks and do so more validly.
New York’s Kendra’s Law was born from the misguided frustration that if only killer Andrew Goldstein had been forced to take his medicines, he would not have killed Kendra Webdale.
If Goldstein had ever been prosecuted for his serial assaults and batteries (over a dozen documented), he would have been incarcerated and not free to kill anyone.
There has never been any evidence – and quite a bit to the contrary — that mental health professionals, whether real doctors or psychologists or social workers, can predict the infinitesimal number of “mentally ill” people who will commit violent acts.
We can pour money into new programs enfranchising mental health professionals – even physicians – to identify mentally ill people, but this will affect
the incidence of violent acts not a whit.
Richard E. Vatz
(The writer, a professor at Towson University, is an editor for Current Psychology and psychology editor for USA Today Magazine)