Norway shooting perpetrator, mentally ill or evil?

Norway shooting perpetrator, mentally ill or evil?

Speculation over the 'mental state' of the Norwegian shooter is so unnecessary and wrongly assumes mental illness is a cause of violent crime.

By Liz Lockhart

The dreadful news of first the bombing and then the shootings in Norway has left the world reeling.  The hearts of all decent people go out to this gentle nation.

Norway is so seldom in the news especially for anything of such abhorrent magnitude.  Even now, whilst we watch Norway mourning this chronic disaster, the overriding sense of the character of the nation is one of tolerance, outspokenness and unity.  To think that one of their own citizens could have perpetrated this atrocity is beyond understanding.  I sat stunned as the news unfolded but was saddened by press, television and radio speculation that Anders Behring Breivik, the alleged gunman and bomber, must have a mental health disorder. 

Why is it that as soon as a dreadful crime comes into focus it is automatically assumed that there is a mental health disorder that will make sense of it?  Maybe it will emerge that he did suffer from a psychological disorder but this should be irrelevant.  The crimes that he is alleged to have committed are premeditated acts of evil that can not be explained away by saying he has a 'mental illness'.

When I went to my local town people were buzzing about this tragedy and again I heard the phrases 'mental health problem', ‘mentally ill’ and ‘mentally sick’ trotted out.  As one of the 1 in 4 people who has had a mental health disorder, I truly resent the implication that having a disorder of this nature automatically makes us more likely to act criminally.

I recently helped Catherine Walker to write an article on the statistics that relate to crime and mental health called ‘misconceptions, crime and mental health’ which provided an insight into this subject.  The overriding outcome was that the incidence of offence among the mental ill is minimal.  To read more on this visit  .

Could it be that it is easier to accept mental illness than evil? 

Do we want to ignore the existence of all things and people that are bad?  If this is so why do we have to pin this wickedness onto any mental health condition which most likely played no part in this tragedy?

I wish the press, media and the ‘man in the street ‘ would stop the speculation of mental disorder being at the forefront  of crime.  It is not.

I was particularly stuck by a student leader who spoke so maturely and with such composure on the day of the tragedy.  He had been caught up in the shooting on Utoeya Island and yet had the strength to attend a press conference.  I saw him three days later signing the book of condolence and he appeared to have broken down.  I fear that all too often this will happen to other youngsters caught up in the shooting.

It would appear that Norway has excellent mental health experts and services on hand to help all those traumatised in the incident.  It may take days, months or years for the psychological effects of this to emerge.

Mental Healthy sends its heartfelt condolences to all those affected by this tragic incidence. 

For further information or help with PTSD please see the following links



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