The Taboo Question in the wake of Newtown

In the wake of yesterday’s horror at Newtown, Connecticut, everybody’s buzzing about gun laws and evil and mental illness—and everything but the taboo question: did psychotropic medications play a role in this horror?

The Edmonton Journal’s Paula Simons wrote a compassionate and thoughtful response to the tragedy, but she too, if the conversation on her Facebook page today is any indication, doesn’t seem to take seriously the possibility that medications may have played a role.

But it is a matter of fact that psychiatric medications can cause violent thoughts and behaviours, and it seems to me utterly irresponsible on behalf of the media not to be asking questions on this front. Should Adam Lanza have been on medication? Was he, and if he was, which one?

Yes, I know medications can save lives. But I also know they can take them. The question we need to have answered is one of where the greater risk lies.

And whose words do we give more weight? Scientists like David Healy, or the experts who tell us not to worry our pretty little heads? Do we bother to listen to the voices of the people? Those, like former Edmontonian Angela Bischoff, who lost her husband, Tooker Gomberg, to suicide that occurred five weeks after starting his antidepressant medication and a few short days after increasing the dose to its maximum level?

There are thousands of these stories, literally. And listening to the people is always a good place to start, in my mind. As is listening to those who have gone to the trouble to document what the corporate media doesn’t want to document.

No, we don’t need guns in the hands of thousands. And yes, medications can be useful in some cases. Still, the conversation must move beyond the line that has been drawn, way beyond it.

6 thoughts on “The Taboo Question in the wake of Newtown

  1. As a sufferer of a mental illness throughout my life and knowing first hand the positive as well as negative effects medications can have on a person’s mind, I think it is very irresponsible to single out medications as the main culprit of tragedies like the one in Connecticut or anywhere else. I firmly believe there is a lot of ignorance about mental illness, and stigma attached to it and just plain negative stereotyping and lack of willingness to accept that this is a very important subject that needs to be addressed as much as a stricter more comprehensive laws on gun control.
    Tragedies like this one, have many components and I believe it is damaging to put the blame on one single element, especially the one who is embedded in the lives of human beings who are in need of help and don’t need more bad publicity.

    • You’re right, there is a lot of stigma and ignorance swirling around mental illness, and I’d love to see that change. And I agree that it’s complicated, and I wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions or blame it on any one thing. It goes without saying of course that most sufferers of mental illness, treated or not, never become violent. But the facts are that medications can sometimes cause violent behaviour, and it seems to me that unless we can begin to talk about this, we’ll never come up with better solutions.

  2. OR- Could be that the world is splitting at the seams-maybe guns/pills/whatever don’t even come into play- maybe we are seeing the results of an uncaring, selfish world finally busting through the thin skin of civility. We – (the boomers and earlier) know what life is like without excess, and could live without at the stuff that surrounds us, but current generations won’t , and are probably frustrated. I think the near future will be a wild ride…

    • It does seem like the world is splitting at the seams Glen, doesn’t it? It’s true–it’s a culture of violence we live and breathe. Still… a senseless thing like this goes way beyond an absence of civility or caring, to my mind. You can’t be sane and do something like this. And to improve it in any way, I think we have to look at all the potential factors rather than dismiss them all as unlikely.

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