Saturday, October 07, 2006


I never know what to say anymore when people ask me, "Why?"

I'm sure people probably expected me to post something about the Amish shooting this week, but I just couldn't. A number of respected forensic psychiatrists were quoted in the media and have already said what could be said about the situation---no one will really know the true motive, recovery will take a long time, yadda yadda. I have little to add to that. You know a crime was bad when even the criminals were asking me, "Why would somebody do something like that?"

It's interesting that people don't usually ask "why" when somebody does something good. My post on Hazardous Duty is the exception to the rule. People ask "why" over positive acts when those acts carry great risk to the person doing them or require an extraordinary sacrifice. Unfortunately, the bad event "why's" seem to outnumber the good event "why's" more and more often these days. I think it's OK once in a while for a psychiatrist to just say: "I haven't a clue."

People are going to want me to have some answers again soon. Someone in my neighborhood committed suicide last week. Being the neighborhood mental health person, I heard about it almost immediately. Not being a close friend of the decedent, I'm again in the situation of saying little when there's nothing to be said---people have already said it all: "What a horrible thing to do to the family" and "Why did it happen now?" (as if there's a good time for this).

I wish I could package up all these reactions and hand them over to certain select patients. Once in a while you get a patient who talks about suicide so casually it's like they're talking about the weather, and I wonder how many of them truly appreciate the seriousness this act carries and how much it weighs on survivors. The people who have felt it know.

And here's the irony: This past week was Mental Illness Awareness Week.