As we approach the one month anniversary, the terror and the possible future solutions to prevent mass killings, continue to keep the internet busy. I read two articles written by two different psychiatrists that I wanted to share, as each has a very different analysis of this horrible incident. Since my recent writing here on Age of Autism concerned Adam Lanza and the "P/M" factor [Psychiatry/Medication] I continue to read about this tragedy. I worked at a psychiatric hospital for 15 years, and therefore, I have a personal interest in the connection to Psychiatry.
Psychiatric Times sent out to their email subscribers, this article written by H. Steven Moffic, MD:
"Amidst all the initial speculation on the reasons for the tragedy, my wife noticed an e-mail from a psychiatrist that struck us as possibly revealing deeper issues, some perhaps indirectly relevant. The subject was “Autism not a Mental Illness.” Autism was one of the initial diagnoses associated with this killer. Beyond such premature diagnostic speculations, the e-mail was reacting to a CNN coverage in which a physician and a reporter discussed that autism may not be an illness, since NIMH was considering autism and other mental conditions as “neurogenerative.” Perhaps, the e-mailer suggested, if autism was not considered to be a mental illness, would that be better because then, if the murderer did not have a mental illness, mental illness could not be blamed for the mass murder."
"If indeed the perpetrator of the Newtown tragedy fell on the Autism spectrum, how often does a mass murderer have that diagnosis?"
"The more impersonal ways of relating on the internet may veer us more toward the social deficits and lack of empathy that is characteristic of the Autism spectrum."
"That is when I began to think more seriously of evil, as did many in the aftermath of this recent tragedy"
Soon after the tragedy, one of the fathers of a child killed tearfully pleaded for society to learn from what happened in order to prevent future mass murders. Here’s what I think psychiatry can contribute:
• Autism, Asperger, and most every other mental condition worthy of our
prime focus should be called diseases, not disorders
• All such diagnoses should be made or certified by a psychiatrist to qualify for medical insurance coverage
• Do not make public diagnoses of anyone not personally examined, per our Goldwater Rule
• This tragedy, following too many others, should spur further study of where criminal behavior ends and psychiatric disease begins, if indeed there is even such a line
• All psychiatrists should spend some clinical time in a correctional institution, either during residency or later for continuing education
• Find better ways to educate the public about the early signs of homicidal risk
• Advocate for a system of safe reporting of those felt to be at- risk for homicidal behavior
• Provide better resources in order to improve early treatment of homicidal ideation
• Convene a representative body of those injured by public violence and loved ones of those murdered, to work on a national Task Force to reduce mass murder
• Advocate for a special anniversary date or holiday, December 14th, to not only remember the Connecticut tragedy or others like it, but also as a way to monitor how we are doing as a nation and a profession in trying to prevent more such tragedies."
Here is another view of the Sandy Hook tragedy from Peter R. Breggin, MD, author of "Psychiatry Has No Answer to Gun Massacres"
"In the last few days, talking heads on TV and even some of my friends have been arguing that we need stronger commitment laws and other psychiatric interventions to protect people from maniacal shooters. In additional to gun control, President Obama is talking about increased mental health services."
"As a psychiatrist, I know that increasing the power of psychiatry in our society is not the way to go."
"We know exactly what happens when the government pushes mental health services, because we can examine their results. The VA, state mental hospitals, and county clinics offer little else than drugs. Or consider the scandals involved in government-run foster care where children are routinely subdued with drug cocktails."
"mentally ill" people, that is, people who get diagnosed psychiatrically, are not more dangerous than the general population, including neighbors in their communities. However, individuals suffering from substance abuse do have increased rates of violence, but largely toward family members rather than the public"
"when psychiatry becomes involved, drugs are dispensed, and psychiatric drugs can cause or worsen violence. A recent study of reports to the FDA of drug-induced violence has demonstrated that antidepressants have an 840% increased rate of violence"
"For the first time, I'm making public the drug company report to the FDA confirming that Harris had a "therapeutic" level of the drug in his body at the time of the murders. This is the official report to the FDA on March 17, 1999, from Luvox (fluvoxamine) manufacturer Solvay Pharmaceuticals confirming "the presence of a Luvox blood level at autopsy." I was an expert in cases surrounding the Columbine shootings and can also confirm that Eric Harris was taking the drug for a year, had a dose increase to 200 mg per day two and one-half months before the assault on the high school, and was showing signs of toxicity in the form of a drug-induced tremor five weeks before the event. Meanwhile, his writings indicate he was becoming more and more violent while taking Luvox."
"The most devastating recent shooters were all involved with psychiatric treatment and evaluation, and it did not prevent their violence. In some cases, it undoubtedly increased it.....It's dangerous folly to seek solutions to violence from within psychiatry."
"Families do need improved services to help with difficult, distressed, or potentially violent children, and a wide variety of empathic, caring approaches are available to provide this help. Schools also need more services to reach out to children and youth who are withdrawn and isolated, and on very rare occasion potentially violent; and again there are numerous effective ways of offering this help."
"Truly beneficial therapies and educational interventions do not rely on psychiatric diagnoses or drugs."
must confess that I find the article based on facts that Dr. Breggin
presented as far more convincing to the opinion piece from Dr. Moffic, in
which Moffic appeared to focus on DSM terminology, NO mention of
medications, and the painting of an "evil" portrait of autism
spectrum disorders, to be the scapegoat, rather than any possible
prescription pad. It is important to deal with facts, when patterns
emerge that harm so many. Avoiding the truth only perpetuates
Teresa Conrick is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.