Though gun crime in the United States is no stranger to the news, the recent tragedies surrounding the Connecticut shooting and the earlier attack on a movie theater near Denver have highlighted a few links between violent attacks and mental health issues.
Both Adam Lanza (the gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary, Newtown) and James Holmes (Denver) are suspected to suffer from mental illness – particularly in the former’s case, who was known to have suffered from Asperger Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism.
Mental health illnesses cannot be blamed for these terrible crimes
While there are those who are keen to make strong links between the disease and the appalling acts they have committed, perhaps to try and understand more about the nature of the awful crimes, experts in the field have taken a firm stance to distance the two from each other as much as they can.
Even though autism spectrum disorders may involve a slightly higher than average rate of aggressive behavior – things like pushing or shouting are sometimes common in younger cases – they are worlds apart from the terrible events that have unfolded over the past months.
In the case of Lanza, people who knew him have commented that he was shy and socially-awkward, both common stereotypes of those who suffer from kinds of autism. However, it is not uncommon for those with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) to exhibit other mental health issues, too. Depression, bipolar disorders and OCD are frequently linked as well. Elizabeth Laugeson, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California is adamant that the two cannot be linked, and that it is more likely one of the other associated diseases was the root cause.
A fresh approach from the UK
Thankfully there is a lot of help going toward mental health and autism support; particularly in the UK, where Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged substantial sums of money toward research of the disease and care of those suffering from it. Of course there are a number of charities which are also doing their bit to provide firm support networks in order to provide a higher quality of life for both the individuals and their families. It has been proven countless times that positive environments as well as the empowerment to live more independent lives is of huge benefit.
Perhaps it is time for the US to take the lead of the UK and devote more funding toward similar programs, in the hope that there are fewer and hopefully no future cases like the horrifying events that took place in Connecticut and Denver.
If you or your family is affected by mental health or autism spectrum diseases, United Response offers autism support alongside many other service.