A National Conversation About Mental Illness

I know it’s popular to say nowadays that we need to have a “national conversation” about mental health in light of the Sandy Hook shooting.

As I’ve said a few times now, this guy wasn’t crazy or diseased — he was evil. I won’t rehash that point again. I will say, however, that I’m very uncomfortable with deeming certain personality traits as “red flags” or “signs of mental illness”. We’re hearing that he was shy, he was a loner, he was intelligent, he didn’t have any friends, he kept to himself, he was socially awkward. OK. So what? Many people are shy, intelligent, introverted and reclusive. Are we supposed to put them all on drugs or lock them away for fear they might be future mass murderers? Sure, some murderers have been of this sort. There’s also plenty of serial killers that are amicable and extroverted. How many times have we heard “oh he was so nice and friendly, I never thought he’d do this”? In my life I have personally known an individual who was very warm and talkative and then ended up committing a murder-suicide. Evil takes all types.

And does this really help anything? You have a bunch of shy and quiet kids in school that are already uncomfortable enough and now they’re looked at like potential psychopaths. Yeah that will REALLY help them come out of their shell. Incidentally, who says they even NEED to “come out of their shell”? With all the talk about diversity, I’ve never heard of a society more insistent on everyone having only one particular personality. Intelligent people tend to be more introverted. You know why? Because they actually spend time thinking instead of running their mouths every second of the day. They’re cerebral and creative, which may make them appear “strange” to some. But it’s only because of our own low self-esteem and constant need for affirmation that we become so damn uneasy around people who don’t fill every inch of silence with small talk and pleasantries.

Maybe some evil dangerous killers have been quiet loners. Fine. Many of history’s greatest artists and geniuses have been quiet loners as well. If we keep forcing everyone to be “sociable” we’ll end up with a country full of irritating used car salesmen.

All I’m saying is that for all our talk about “acceptance”, here we are viewing some personality types as symptoms of mental illness. We stand up and confidently proclaim “These mannerisms, demeanors and personalities shouldn’t exist!” And then go back to blathering about how tolerant and open minded we are. 

So I don’t want to have a “conversation about mental illness” if it means that shy kid in the back of the class ends up being labeled a maniac simply because he’s smart enough to think more than he talks.

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6 Responses to A National Conversation About Mental Illness

  1. mikemayer67 says:

    Thank you! As an introvert myself, I have always despised all the talk about “helping us come out of our shell”. It should be obvious, but it is the extroverts that tend to be doing all the talking (and thus coloring the conversation) whenever discussions on personality traits come up.

  2. rookswriter says:

    I agree. 🙂 I think we learned something about this in psychology, like people with anti-social personality disorder can actually appear really kind and warm… but they end up as your worst nightmare. It’s not always the quiet ones, despite the saying.

  3. idiotwriter says:

    Excellent! My daughter is introverted. But brilliant. She is the kindest child in the world. better watch out for her than I guess… Love this article!

  4. elle says:

    Saying that a percentage of a specific type of violent offenders seems to share certain personality traits is not the same as saying that anyone that exhibits those traits must be a violent offender; anyone with half a brain can deduce that. This article sounds like any other super pro-PC article saying that we can’t identify ANYTHING that might mean something is wrong with an individual b/c then ALL of the individuals that have “that thing” will feel ostracized. From reading many of your other posts, this seems highly unlike you.

  5. lindsayphipps says:

    Saying that a percentage of a specific type of violent offenders seems to share certain personality traits is not the same as saying that anyone that exhibits those traits must be a violent offender; anyone with half a brain can deduce that. This article sounds like any other super PC article saying that we can’t identify ANYTHING that might mean something is wrong with an individual b/c then ALL of the individuals that have “that thing” will feel ostracized. From reading many of your other posts, this seems highly unlike you.

  6. Christina says:

    Love this!

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