Why is it so surprising to people who have little understanding of mental ill health to hear that people who do are relieved to find that courts have ruled mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, as ‘sane’ and not suffering from mental illness?
There is the usual cry of “Y’see mad doesn’t equal bad”, and it’s true, the vast majority of people with a history of mental illness will not kill anyone, or even harm them. However that sense of relief carries with it a much more embedded message, that people who do commit heinous crimes are simply abominable.
It’s remarkable to someone like me, with a diagnosis of a mental disorder, that the public, so desperate to label Brevik ‘insane’ have little or no comment on the brutal and totalitarian regimes, past and present, in which mass murder has taken place, committed by not one, but hundreds of people employed to carry out the crimes. Yes they may call Dictators such as Hitler and Stalin et al ‘insane’ but what about the men and women who carried out the murders on their behalf, were they too equally ‘out of their minds’ whilst they attended their duties? How would the public decide how to interpret the difference?
Brevik was ‘political murderer’, driven by powerful right wing beliefs and who apparently despised what he felt was the “Islamic colonisation” of his country. The danger in labeling him insane allows for other similar extremist crime to be seen in a similar cast, creating a cultural deception, and somehow maligning it to a place where it has no reality for a public, who cannot accept that mass murder is ‘most often’ the product of society, culture and belief.
Mens sana in corpore sano – a healthy mind in a healthy body, is capable of having, thinking and acting upon thoughts of violence.