Mental Health

The Mental Illness Cop-Out

June 09, 2014

Multiple Pages
The Mental Illness Cop-Out

It all seemed so deliberate.

According to court documents, on May 31 two twelve-year-old Wisconsin girls led a female classmate into the woods and stabbed her 19 times, leaving her for dead. Under police examination, the pair of girls said they’d been planning to kill her for months. (She survived.)

Police say the two girls had originally plotted to murder their victim during a sleepover. Their plan involved duct-taping her mouth shut, stabbing her fatally in the neck, and pulling the covers over her corpse to give the appearance that she was sleeping. Instead, they switched gears and agreed to kill her the next day in the bathroom of a nearby public park, which had a floor drain they thought would hide the blood as it oozed from her dying body. When one of the alleged perps panicked in the bathroom, the girls again altered their plans and led their victim into the woods to play hide and seek.

According to the allegedly self-incriminating testimony of 12-year-old Anissa Weier, after stabbing the girl, she told her to lie down and be quiet, which would make her lose less blood as she and her accomplice went to get help. Weier told police that she never intended to get help. She said she only wanted the victim to quit screaming and drawing attention to the crime scene as the life ebbed out of her.

“The very idea of ‘mental illness’ is schizoid. It implies that the ‘illness’ is somehow a separate entity from the person.”

“The bad part of me wanted her to die, the good part of me wanted her to live,” Weier reportedly told police. Her alleged accomplice, Morgan E. Geyser, is quoted as saying, “I didn’t feel remorse.”

The girls also told authorities that they committed the crime to appease Slender Man, a tall, slim, faceless fictional online horror character who has the ability to grow long tendrils from his hands and back. They became obsessed with Slender Man after viewing horror website Creepypasta Wiki. They said they believed he resided in a Wisconsin mansion and that they’d go live with him after offering him this blood sacrifice.

The girls’ neighbors expressed shock, claiming that they were “very nice” and came from “normal, middle-class” families. The two are being charged as adults with intentional homicide and could face up to 60 years in prison if convicted.

Given their alleged elaborate planning, I also doubt that the girls’ tender age absolves them of ill intent. Children are far smarter than adults tend to acknowledge. Most adults seem to forget being children. Perhaps that’s part of the brain degeneration and diminished responsibility that comes with adulthood.

But that will never stop a defense lawyer from seeking a cheap cop-out. “She’s 12 and she has mental health issues,” said Anthony Cotton, one of the girls’ defense attorneys. “There’s no question that she needs to go to the hospital.”

Whenever someone says there is “no question” about any given matter, my first instinct is to question it. And the very idea of “mental illness” reeks to high holy heaven of bullshit to me. It reminds me of other obvious falsehoods such as the idea that rape has nothing to do with sex, that race doesn’t exist but racism is everywhere, and that alcoholism is a disease rather than a character flaw.

The very idea of “mental illness” is schizoid. It implies that the “illness” is somehow a separate entity from the person, thus casting responsibility on the illness rather than the person. Isolating the illness allows one to pretend that their personality is infected with a germ, when the more likely explanation is that they simply have a bad personality. The fundamental error in the idea of “mental illness” lies in creating a fictional duality between the person’s imaginary affliction and the core of their very being.

This in no way discounts the reality of neurological disorders. Those are physical conditions that can be quantified. But in most cases, “mental illness” seems like a cheap and dishonest way of avoiding what are fundamental character flaws.

Despite his later unfortunate collaborations with Scientologists, Thomas Szasz nailed this concept in his 1960 essay “The Myth of Mental Illness,” which was expanded into a bestselling book a year later:

Mental illness, of course, is not literally a “thing”—or physical object—and hence it can “exist” only in the same sort of way in which other theoretical concepts exist. … As such, it is a true heir to religious myths in general, and to the belief in witchcraft in particular. ... Our adversaries are not demons, witches, fate, or mental illness.  We have no enemy whom we can fight, exorcise, or dispel by “cure.”  What we do have are problems in living—whether these be biologic, economic, political, or sociopsychological.

Merely for stating the obvious, Szasz was treated by most of those who stood to gain significant revenue from the psychiatric profession as a witch. Blaming one’s deliberate actions on “mental illness” is a modern version of “The Devil made me do it”—or, in this latest case, “Slender Man made me do it.”

Modern society is apparently awash in “mental illness” and drowning in pills to treat it. How easily we have forgotten the well-documented political abuse of psychiatry in communist regimes and barbaric practices such as lobotomies and electroshock therapy. All the new mood stabilizers and happy pills seem to have erased memories of how psychiatry has traditionally been used as a hammer to smash the souls and crush the will of political dissidents and simple nonconformists.

I’ve never seen a psychological diagnosis or a psychiatric medication improve anyone’s mood, behavior, or life circumstances. I’ve only seen dependence on antidepressants and tranquilizers render them far less capable of fixing their problems than they were before willingly submitting to the psychiatric industry’s dubious wisdom. Still, I’ve had one person after the next insist to me that they “need” their medication and that I simply don’t “understand” mental illness. No, I feel I perfectly understand what’s going on—the problem isn’t mental illness, it’s character weakness.

What’s striking, though, is that it is no longer the political dissidents who are being force-medicated; rather, it is the pro-statist conformists who are willingly gobbling medication by the bucket. These days, “mental illness” is being blamed for all manner of seemingly willful foul behavior, while the only people deemed to be in complete control of their thoughts and actions are the alleged racists, sexists, and homophobes—modern society’s true dissidents and scapegoats. There are probably isolated cases, but I don’t ever remember “mental illness” being used as a defense against hate-crime charges. Everyone else, though, is a slave to their mental illness.

Ironically, it may be only on psychiatric medication where people truly seem to bear less responsibility for their behavior; hence the fact that so many mass murderers of late are up to their eyeballs in psych meds. You leave their brains alone, and they seem far less likely to go on killing sprees.

The mere idea that people aren’t responsible for their actions apparently leads to less responsible behavior. Various studies have suggested that the less a person believes in free will, the more likely they are to lie, cheat, steal, become aggressive, and fall victim to mindless conformity. The less they believe that they are in control of their actions, the worse they act. Thus, the idea of “mental illness” likely creates more problems than it solves.
Therefore, mental illness doesn’t need to be cured, because it likely doesn’t exist. People need to be cured of the delusion that mental illness, rather than their own lack of willpower, is the problem.

The defense lawyers, psychiatrists, and pill-peddlers who make a living from the idea of mental illness will continue insisting it’s real. After all, that’s their job.

But if the allegations against the pair of preteen girls in Wisconsin are true, blaming it on “mental illness” is as dumb as blaming it on Slender Man. The simplest explanation—yet the hardest for most humans to accept—would be that the girls did it because they chose to do it.


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