Mental Illness: an Excuse or a Reason?

Mental Illness: an Excuse or a Reason?

There was a mass shooting in Toronto on Sunday July 22nd. News reports indicate that the shooter had a history of mental illness. Is mental illness an excuse used to explain his sinister behavior? Or, does his mental health challenges provide an adequate reason for why he would walk down the street with a handgun shooting everyone he came across? Is mental illness just an excuse for bad behavior, or is it a legitimate reason for violent behavior? 

Neither. Mental illness should not be considered an excuse or a reason. No more than physical illness should mental illness be considered an excuse or reason for poor behavior. Mental illness can be seen as apart of a group of precipitating factors that together work towards a certain outcome. Should mental illness be entirely blamed for any outcome? No. This man who went roaming down the Danforth in Toronto shooting victims may have had a mental illness, however, the mental illness alone did not lead him to his actions.

Not every person with an mental illness will become a mass shooter and not every mass shooter has a mental illness. We have to take more time to dissect their story; figure out what events, thoughts, and situations lead to their actions before we go blaming or concluding mental illness. It make others with a mental illness seem more scary and makes the scary think that they are ill when neither of these could be true. Mental illness is an unfortunate complication in the mass shooter’s life but it was the shooter, not the illness, that is to blame for the horrid events of that night.

My condolences to the families who lost loved ones and to those who lived but will never be the same after being witness and victim of such a horrific event. May those who rest in peace be remembered and those who witnessed and remember live in peace.

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Marcy Gray

Psychotherapist and Diversity Expert

Marci Gray is the lead psychotherapist and CEO of Gray Matter Health. She is an experienced speaker and corporate trainer as well as consultant and author who specializes in mental health and anti-racism work which is the focus of her PhD research. READ MORE


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