Days after Jared Loughner killed 6 and injured 14 people in Arizona, the court of public opinion (media) is declaring him mentally ill.
Whether or not an evaluation finds Loughner mentally ill is not really important. What is important is the media’s continued association of the terms “mentally ill” with violent behavior.
I’m looking at newspaper headlines since 1975. Examples are Former mental patient kills 3 outside store, Mental patient hurts boy, officer on plane, Mental patient killed, hostages freed, Ex-mental patient kills two neighbors.
Here’s the problem. Headlines never say “Non-mental patient patient kills………… But this event happens much more frequently and illustrates that more people who don’t have a history of mental illness are dangerous. This fact has been born out by repeated research studies. As a 1980 headline in the Miami Herald declared, there’s a distinction between behavior that is sick and behavior that is sickening or evil. Most violent behavior is the latter.