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Hate Isn’t Mental Illness; It’s Social Illness

Those with mental illness hear voices in their heads who direct them to action. Those who hate listen to a leader.

Image Wikimedia

We could have a shrink on every corner of every city and town in America, the US could be the Starbucks of mental health centers with access to therapy as easy as ordering a mocha Frappuccino. But as long as automatic weapons are so easily obtainable, the bodies of dead children, teenagers, teachers, shoppers, congregants, party-goers and employees will litter our schools and churches and parks and concerts.

There is no ICD-10 code for hate. (That’s the handy code your doctor puts on your chart so the insurance company pays for your treatment.) When you search for the hate code, the response is: “No results were found for hate. You may want to: Check your spelling.”

The problem is that there are no check boxes for hate.  Hate doesn’t exist in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the handbook used by health care professionals in the United States as the guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders.

Hate doesn’t exist in any medical context. There is no neat number that directs all treatment and medications towards the hate-filled patient getting better. Know why? Hate is not a mental illness. Hate is a condition derived from fear. Hate is not the opposite of love; hate is an intentional action to cause harm or destroy; to possess something that is not yours. Hate is the transgression of another to the point of taking another’s life; or lives, as the latest mass shooters have done.

But, back up. What do we typically do with someone who is afraid? We comfort them, we reassure them. We are empathetic. So, then, hate is not diagnosed; it’s discovered, addressed, and, hopefully, with enough benevolent actions and home-cooked dinners, driven out. Those who hate deserve love and understanding, and many of us are more than willing to offer our services, our organizations, our donations. But should we help him when he has sprayed automatic weapon fire into a crowd of innocents and destroyed the lives of dozens of people? More than dozens: the victims, the families and loved ones of the dead are now suffering. I know what you’re thinking: “What the hell are you talking about?! Now you want me to sympathize with this guy? I wish he had died in a storm of bullets!” And you’d be totally entitled to that feeling, but loving those who are afraid is in fact what our charge as human beings is.

It is nearly impossible, no–it’s unimaginable to think we can shower love and understanding upon a person who has intentionally taken an automatic weapon to a school, shopping mall, church to slaughter other human beings. The ostracization of such an individual is right, justified. Kill him, imprison him. Keep him out of the paper, don’t glorify his name. And, by the way, I’m using the pronoun “him” because over 90% of mass shooters are male. There’s a fairly big clue right there. It’s not an excuse, but an insight into how to go forward in dealing with such horrific incidents in our country. Hate isn’t mental illness; it’s social illness.

That white guy with a gun? He’s scared. It might not make sense but there it is. He is afraid that  people are coming into this country to take his job. He is afraid he might have feelings of affection towards another man. He is afraid that he won’t have enough money to feed his family. He is afraid he’s going to get old and he doesn’t understand how everything has changed and why he feels so inadequate to deal with such changes. Left unattended, fear becomes hate. The hater is isolated, maybe even feared himself by his family, due to his increasing violence and behavior. Once the hater finds a community–very easy these days because of online discussion groups, his feelings are nurtured by the presence of a like-minded mob, helmed by a compelling leader who fans all of those feelings of inadequacy. The leader throws red meat to the hungry and rarely wades into the depths of actual terrorism that is carried out in his name. The hater now feels entitlement rather than some vague, unjust victimization. He now has a cause. He feels good…feels successful. He is adequate again. He begins making his plans.

It is important that we make sure that we don’t associate hate and violence with mental health. It is unfairly assigning blame to those who are suffering from illness. Mental illness is just that…an illness. A state or condition that functions in opposition to the well being of the organism. Those with mental illness hear voices in their heads who direct them to action. One who hates listens to a leader. In current times, actual public figures. Haters feel rewarded from their actions—they’ve achieved a goal. They’re even aware of their actions—they know that pointing an automatic weapon at people will kill them. But for those with mental illness, they’re not having a good time. It doesn’t feel good to be anxious, depressed, chronically hurting and only looking for a way to feel better. Mental illness doesn’t feel good. Their actions are directed at stopping the pain, the suffering and they aren’t able to discern the consequences. Their actions are (typically) not turned against others but inward; as a way to make the suffering stop.

Haters’ goals are to inflict suffering upon others. There is choice in hate; the hater chooses their actions for a specific, manifestoed outcome. They take time to post their intentions, check in with their crowd, brag a little bit. They know they will cause harm.

And let’s be clear here: Guns produce that harm. Haters with guns. It’s a little sickening to hear the hue and cry from the 2nd Amendment folks who can only summon empathy for themselves as they lament the latest call for confiscation of their precious guns. They say, “oh, another shooting. Now we have to talk about gun reform again.” As if there wasn’t a more urgent topic…like more killings.

No one says confiscating guns is the answer. The politicians who live quite comfortably in the pockets of the NRA don’t even believe it, but they want the haters to believe it. That’s how they maintain their control over their base. I don’t own guns, nor do I like even them one little bit, but I know gun owners. Most of them agree that there should be tighter regulations, more control. It helps them, too, but don’t let any of those 2nd A’ers hear that. They just want to perpetuate the myth that the Dems want to take their guns. Are they just pretending that Democrats don’t own guns? The chair of my Democratic Town Committee owns guns. I’m pretty sure he’s against getting them confiscated, too.

So, we have hate and we have guns, and for years, we’ve stood by watching the massacres happen. We listen to our politicians offer thoughts and prayers. We watched six-year-olds get gunned down and not a thing was done in this country to prevent further attacks. Again, and again and again, men with guns have taken the lives of our neighbors and loved ones. And almost every time, we raise the flag of Mental Illness. But you know what? We could have a shrink on every corner of every city and town in America–the US could be the Starbucks of mental health centers with access to therapy as easy as ordering a mocha Frappuccino.  But as long as automatic weapons are so easily obtainable, the bodies of dead children, teenagers, teachers, shoppers, congregants, party-goers and employees will litter our schools and churches and parks and concerts.

This is a social illness and we are all a part of the society. We are used to banishing such criminals to prison or to death as a consequence of their heinous actions. We rarely blame the instigators or  culture that created these villains. We cast them out, ignore them; turn our backs on the people who are dangerous, different; the ones who are afraid. They make us afraid. We hate them.

Isn’t that the very thing we’re fighting against?

 

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