The Psychotic Assassin
by Gina Simmons, Ph.D.
A delusional young loner becomes obsessed with a blonde woman. Disgusted with politicians and the government, he writes rambling rants difficult to understand. He hides the truth about his life from his family. He isolates from friends, buys a gun, attempts to assassinate a politician.
According to news reports, Jared Lee Loughner engaged in bizarre, hostile behavior last year at Pima Community College. He later withdrew from the college after campus officials told him he needed a mental health evaluation and clearance before they would allow him to return. He then legally purchased a Glock 9 millimeter semi-automatic weapon and, months later, shot 20 people.
From the evidence reported in the news to date, and from Jared Loughner’s disjointed YouTube videos, it appears he suffered from a psychotic disorder. Psychosis consists of a break with reality. The individual’s thoughts don’t connect with a logical thread. Sometimes they speak in a word salad, as if their thoughts were put into a bowl and randomly tossed. Loughner likely suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is an incurable mental illness, with genetic links, associated with significant destruction of brain tissue over time. Symptoms of the disease include hallucinations (sensing things that are not real) and delusions (false beliefs). The disease usually begins in late adolescence and early adulthood.
- Usually males under the age of 43
- Substance abusers
- Bipolar or depressed combined with substance abuse
- Income below $20,000 per year
- History of family violence, criminal activity, or juvenile detention
- Victimized, divorced, separated or unemployed in the past year
- Good access to affordable mental health treatment, medications and hospitals. (See the Mental Health Parity Act)
- Accurate databases and strong laws preventing psychotic individuals from owning guns
- Public education about mental illness and treatment programs
- Law enforcement specially trained to manage mentally ill offenders (Special Response Teams)
With education, community and mental health support, many psychotic individuals can lead more productive lives. Some can hold jobs and become self-supporting. Others will need care and support for the rest of their lives. Mental illness is not an individual problem. Mental illness poses a problem for families, communities, nations and international relations. Public figures bear a greater responsibility for the power and influence they wield. In the interest of good judgment, I suggest posing the editorial question, “How would a paranoid schizophrenic gun nut view this ad or speech?” Or ask, WWTBD? (What would Travis Bickle do?)