February 2013 Bar Bulletin
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February 2013 Bar Bulletin

Mental Illness Casts Disparaging Shadow and Light of Hope

By Robert W. Zierman


The short, gray days and long nights are now upon us. For those afflicted by seasonal affective disorder (SAD), there is a wide array of artificial sunlight options to help relieve depression.

Continuing to regard issues related to gray matter, let's take up the serious subject of mental illness.

1. December's mass shooting in Newtown, Con­necticut, was an incomprehensible tragedy executed by a deranged individual.1

2. Deranged individuals are inherently dangerous.

3. Society must take precautions to protect itself from deranged individuals.

The first statement stands on its own two feet. No one in their right mind would act out so gruesomely. The world in shock, horror and utter bewilderment is left with only one question: Why? Unfortunately, there are no answers.

The second statement that deranged individuals are inherently dangerous may or may not be true. This depends on how we define "deranged." Are all individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses deranged? Are some illnesses, like SAD, insufficient to be lent the classification of derangement? Is derangement a mental state akin to a delusion, which may occur only during an episode and is otherwise harmless to the individual and society?

It seems to me that before we go off half-cocked in a battle over gun rights, as a society we better have a clear understanding about the difference between derangement and mental illness before we seek to pursue the third statement's goal of taking precautionary measures.

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