I am sure many if not all of us have seen the news for today about the Franklin Regional High School stabbings. (Article: 24 Injured in Stabbing at Franklin Regional High School http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2014/04/09/multiple-students-reported-stabbed-at-franklin-regional-high-school/) Thankfully, no fatalities were reported, though a few of the victims are in critical condition. And the question becomes, “Why? Why did he do it?” The attacker, a sophomore student at the high school, was perceived as a nice guy to his peers.
Recently in class, we have been discussing psychological disorders and what constitutes abnormal behavior. Abnormal behavior is defined as actions that are statistically rare, deviate from the social norm, and/or cause danger to themselves/others, subjective discomfort, or an inability to function. In the last decade, it seems that unexpected (and sometimes unwarranted) violence especially in schools (Sandy Hook) and colleges (Virginia Tech) against others has become more and more prevalent. And this increase in random violent acts is making it seem like less of a deviance from the social norm, and we as a society are becoming desensitized to it. It seems as though any unstable or psychologically disturbed person can only act out their frustrations in a violent manner. Then, in the eyes of the law if they claim to be or are found by a medical professional to be “mentally unfit”, they no longer have to take responsibility for their actions (i.e. serve a prison sentence or other punishment).
There are some rare exceptions, but most people know whether their actions are right or wrong. Specifically in the cases of school violence, many of the perpetrators planned these acts( see Columbine in 1999 to Sandy Hook in 2012). These attacks took at least some amount of rational thought. If a person suffered from a psychotic break, typically a very sudden thing, it would follow that the violent reaction was triggered by some extremely adverse event and the person would react immediately. But in many of these cases that is not what is happening. In the Franklin Regional story, the attacker was described by one student (who had his face slashed) as having “the same expression on his face that he has every day, which was the freakiest part.” No rage, no anger, just blankness. To me, and I am in no way a medical or psychiatric/psychological professional, his behavior matches more with Antisocial Personality Disorder (formerly psycho- or socio-path). In this disorder, the person shows no remorse, and is often emotionless when describing their crimes. This is not some front they are putting up because they actually don’t even excrete the same level of hormones during what a “normal” person would find to be a distressing event. Nothing phases them. And while this is still a psychological disorder, it is not valid as a “get-out-of-jail-free” card, so the person can still be tried (see the Ice Man, Richard Kuklinski).
While I do feel it is necessary for people who are truly suffering to receive treatment, I think that in these cases, a psychological disorder just provides an excuse, and in my opinion a wholly unacceptable excuse. In an article discussing how people with mental illness deal with the stigma of having a mental illness, the author who suffers from chronic depression states how mentally ill people can still be almost completely “normal” functioning human beings and take responsibility for their actions. At the end, the author even states that the man who shot U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona (and others), though he was disturbed in some sense, was still a murderer. (Article: Mental Illness and Responsibility http://scientopia.org/blogs/goodmath/2011/01/10/mental-illness-and-responsibility/)
So, even though the answer to “Why did they do it?” may be a psychological disturbance, I feel that pleading “insanity” is a terribly insulting way to excuse murder that only sets a precedence for not so innocent parties that you can hide behind a sickness. In the future, I think that a solution is needed to separate the mentally ill seeking treatment to get better from the mentally ill murderers trying to hide from their actions.
*** Note: I do not mean to offend. I only mean to point out a serious problem that has only gotten worse in recent years. ***