How is a mass shooting NOT a mental health issue?

Tanya Tinney
6 min readAug 7, 2019

This is the question I asked myself just a couple of days ago, still reeling from the recent horrors here in the United States.

A question that comes despite having been a registered psychologist for over 14 years, and someone who continues to educate herself in issues of mental, emotional and spiritual health.

A question, despite the reasoned response by the President of the American Psychological Association, which somehow didn’t help relieve the gnawing sense of unease deep inside.

Instead of blaming mental health, we have focused on targets such as racism, bigotry, entitlement, resentment, ***phobia, and any number of identified world-view points — which undeniably contribute to these horrific acts.

But can they be responsible WITHOUT considering mental health (or lack thereof)?

I get it. Perhaps more than many.

I get how it is too confusing (and morally wrong) to ascribe these horrific acts to mental health conditions, because regular people who have diagnosable and treatable mental health conditions don’t deserve poor treatment or blame for the actions of a singular human being.

What I’ve been struggling with completely understanding is this: when a person takes their singular, biased viewpoint to the degree of vicious, intentional acts that harm other people en-masse — how is that NOT considered a mental health issue?

Because, perhaps, it isn’t a mental health issue or condition after all maybe it is bigger, broader and so much deeper.

I’m sure you will agree: any human being who gets to the point in their lives where taking the action of killing, maiming, and/or torturing another human being is seen as an OPTION (never mind a reality) — well, don’t we just KNOW that that is deeply disturbed and sick?

Is this really open for debate?

And when we finally acknowledge this sickness, can’t we stop to look at that it and then look at where we as a community and a species have failed?

Where, how and why did we fail in nurturing that person or that environment such that following through on these negative thoughts, feelings or drives ever became a reality?

Instead of looking deeper, acknowledging this deep level of unwellness — this disconnect to our HUMANITY — we are focused instead on finding blame.

Pointing fingers ‘elsewhere’, towards racism, or gun control, or even the President, seems to be a societal (and perhaps political) distraction from where our focus needs to be: understanding what drives individuals to this level of depravity so we can create viable solutions.

Because honestly, this type of action can only be the result of what I call SOUL LEVEL SICKNESS — and it isn’t diagnosable or treatable by political affiliation.

(This is a term or phrase that I’ve just made up. But it fits.)

Yes, we absolutely need better gun control. Honestly, I have no idea why guns are even readily available without a comprehensive mental health assessment (for goodness sake, I can’t get a refill on my daughters ADHD medication without going through several steps).

Yes, we absolutely need to bring awareness to societal issues of hate, bigotry, racism and all the ‘phobias’.

Yes, we absolutely need to keep speaking out. And educating ourselves and others.

But you know what we do NOT need to keep doing?

We do NOT need to keep pointing fingers.

We do NOT need to keep assigning ‘blame’.

Because placing blame consistently without any massive shift in perspective towards solutions or plans is keeping us STUCK IN FEAR BASED REACTIONS — hatred being the most obvious of them at this point in time.

Because we are uncomfortable with being vulnerable enough to admit that as a society we don’t understand, and we don’t know why, and we certainly don’t know how to fix it right now… we are reacting out of fear, and we are stuck.

Right now, we are living in a society driven by fear, and it is bringing out the worst in all of us.

Tossing around terms such as ‘racist’ or ‘bigot’ as some sort of answer is ludicrous. It solves NOTHING but keeps us stuck in the quagmire of fear, divisiveness and blatant self-rightousness.

Why are we as a society so blind to the fact that labelling anyone anything is a form of hate and judgement?

Why are we not aware that assigning blame to anyone for our own feelings is a pervasive sickness that society has normalized — like a virus that has not been named but serves to leave us feeling powerless and empty?

We do it all the time — in our jobs, relationships and sports — we blame our fears, perceived lack and rage on the actions, beliefs, inactions, shortcomings of others.

Because if we acknowledge that we are ultimately responsible for our own feelings, interpretations, actions, reactions and choices, then we may really feel powerless.

And powerless feels yucky.

It’s just easier to blame someone else.

Seeing people spew absolute hatred from their mouths, hands and eyes toward entire societal, racial and/or political groups — somehow feeling ‘justified’ in doing so — is NOT okay on any level.

It never was okay.

It has been done before. I thought we all knew this?

I thought we all agreed that we knew this, and that as a collective we would do better?

But every day, I see it, hear it and feel it.

It’s become an acceptable form of hate, this ‘justified hatred’.

This hate virus is a sneaky and insidious thing. You see, the very people who have it believe that they are the only ones who are safe.

Sadly, it feels as though we are getting to a situation where we are losing connection with the HUMANITY of our species.

Our morals, values and basic respect for other human beings is being called into question on the sole basis of ones political affiliation.

‘Justified hate’ is rampant.

With the twisted objective seeming to be “if we can just get enough people on board to hate one person/group enough, then we can finally have peace.”

Have we learned NOTHING in the past thousand years?

We have had several new tragedies in this country this week. These come in the wake of some other huge tragedies.

Tragedy is not new. Tragedy is never okay.

Personally, I’m not sure which part is the most disturbing: the tragedy itself, or the finger pointing and new-wave of hatred and judgement that these tragedies have dredged up.

But I am sure of one thing: it is all deeply saddening.

And we’re spending time pointing fingers instead of grieving.

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How do we come TOGETHER? How do we let go of our egos and belief systems and FEARS and simply grieve and hold space in our hearts for those who have been lost and those who are left behind?

How do we come TOGETHER to learn from this — learn something about ourselves and each other that we can take forward into a creating new version of tomorrow?

How do we come TOGETHER and attempt to right the wrongs and create systemic love, acceptance and understanding — which I feel might be the only viable antidote to the virus of hate infecting this nation as a whole.

I know I don’t have ‘the’ answer — if there even is one.

Today, and every day, I try to understand more.

Ask more questions.

Trust my intuition.

Learn more.

Love more.

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With much love to all those directly and indirectly affected by the recent human tragedies here in the US.

I’m deeply, deeply sorry for your loss. Please accept my humble condolences.

Tanya

(This is an edited version of a post that I recently wrote on my personal Facebook page. Thank you for reading 💜) If this piece touched your soul, please let me know in the comments :)

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Tanya Tinney

On a Lifelong Journey to share Dollops of Empowerment * Authenticity Advocate * Mom of Teens * #tuesdaystale Writer