Since twenty school children and six adults were killed just before Christmas last year in a mass shooting in Newtown, CT, discussions of gun control and more access to mental health services are in the news daily. There is talk of bans on assault weapons and how our mental health system is failing us. Our mental health system is definitely failing us, but not for the reasons you may think.
The media is generally saying that gun violence is caused by people that are mentally ill. It has been said that those people didn’t get the help they needed, thus the need for more screening and additional programs. No, they definitely did not get the help they needed. In fact, the mental health system gave them “help” that they actually didn’t need in the form of psychotropic drugs.
There is a very strong link between mass shootings and the use of psychotropic drugs, especially SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) antidepressants. Approximately nine out of ten mass shootings involved these drugs. Dr. David Healy, a psychiatrist himself, has stated that children taking SSRI drugs are more likely to harm or injure other children and they can also be suicidal. He said that if lawmakers and authorities are truly concerned about stopping gun violence in schools, they need to take a close look at the prescription of these drugs for young people.
One might ask why someone taking these drugs would be more likely to harm. One would think that if they are FDA approved they must be safe. The fact is they are FDA approved but they are not safe. They have the strongest warning issued by the FDA, (called a Black Box Warning), which means there is a significant risk of serious or life-threatening adverse side effects. In the case of all antidepressants, the warning is of increased suicidal thoughts and behavior. So how can these drugs be safe with such a risk?
Adverse side effects of anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness and mania are all in the warning. Occurrences of these side effects have also been reported. The warning also calls for close monitoring for signs of suicidal inclinations and unusual changes in behavior. It warns that this is especially important during the initial few months on the medication or at times of an increase or decrease of the dosage.
Clearly this is evidence that anyone on these drugs could experience dangerous kinds of feelings that they normally wouldn’t. Clearly the drugs have the potential to alter one’s thinking and rationality to such a degree that they could commit suicide and/or murder others.
If this is not convincing enough, let’s look at a situation where a teenager who had no previous history of violence or aggressive behavior stabbed a friend and killed him. A sixteen year old boy was put on Prozac and over a three month period his behavior changed dramatically so that he was unpredictable, impulsive and suicidal. His parents thought he seemed like a different person and he even said he had been fantasizing about violence.
His parents and his primary doctor reported this to the psychiatric clinic but they ignored this information, continued the Prozac and then doubled his dosage. Seventeen days later he killed his friend. The judge on the case stated that there was clear medical evidence that Prozac affected his behavior and judgment. In fact, this boy improved dramatically after spending a few months in jail without taking Prozac.
The judge on the case concluded that the Prozac caused the boy to kill his friend. Once he was off Prozac and returned to normal, the judge could see that the boy no longer was a violent threat or a danger to others. The bottom line is that this murder wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t on Prozac.
This judgment in Canada was the first in North America where an antidepressant was found to be the cause of a murder. This murder was not an isolated incident. Given that the majority of mass shootings involved these drugs and given the FDA Black Box Warning and all the previously stated life-threatening side effects, it doesn’t take much to connect the dots. However, in the United States, drug companies don’t want their profits to drop, so they do whatever is needed to make sure the public does not get the truth.
The FDA warning and it side effects are there for anyone to see, but more often than not parents are not informed of these and drug companies are counting on no one noticing. Medical doctors themselves may not even be aware of the side effects and their potential consequences. Any doctor should know the side effects of any drug he prescribes as a standard procedure and should pass on that information to his patients, but that is not always the case.
This creates a potential situation where a doctor is writing a prescription for violence unbeknownst to him. Without that information, he is prescribing a drug without contemplating the thought that he could be basically handing a gun to a child. Dr. Healy stated that very few children have problems that are serious enough to warrant treatment with SSRIs that have such high risk factors. The point is there is no campaign or even any effort to make anyone aware how dangerous these mind-altering drugs are and then people wonder why a mass shooting took place.
There are plenty of people out there who want stricter gun laws to prevent mass shootings. Benjamin Bishop couldn’t get a gun legally, but got one through a friend. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and he was on medication. He killed his mother and her boyfriend with that gun. Legislators can make it tougher to get a gun but it won’t stop anyone. If a person really has the urge to kill, they will find a way to get a gun or use an alternative method.
Others say our mental health system needs more funds to increase mental health screenings and programs. Since there is not one single medical test that can screen for any “mental illness” or “mental disorder,” it only means that symptoms will be categorized by unsubstantiated opinions instead of trying to find the true physical cause of the behavioral problem. Mental health screenings are not scientific and are only a route to a prescription for the psychiatric drugs with the FDA Black Box Warning.
It is obvious that more screenings in schools and more mental health programs would put more children on these dangerous drugs which will only increase the number of mass shootings. Instead, continuous cuts to mental health programs are the answer to decreasing mass shootings. The state of Florida is leading the way as they have recently cut funding to mental health care. Other states should do the same.
For the sake of our children and for society, it is vital that you educate yourself on the side effects of any medication prescribed to you or to anyone in your family. Your doctor may say it’s safe but it would be smart to read the insert on the package and do some thorough research of your own. No one wants another mass shooting, so do your part to prevent one.