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Letter: Mental health care no panacea

Better access to treatment for potential violent offenders ["Supporting the mentally ill," News, June 4]? After the Newtown, Conn., murders, President Barack Obama called for a national conversation about mental health, and the National Rifle Association described our mental health system as broken and in a shambles.

But many mass shooters were in treatment before their acts of violence. To name just a few of the shooters and alleged shooters: Thomas Solomon, who shot six students at his Conyers, Ga., school in 1999, was taking prescribed Ritalin at the time of his rampage; Eric Harris, one of the Columbine High School killers in Colorado in 1999, was seeing a psychiatrist and on psychotropic medications; James Holmes, the suspected Colorado theater shooter, was on prescribed medication before the massacre; and Kip Kinkel, who killed his parents and then murdered two students and wounded 25 others at his Oregon high school in 1998, was seeing a therapist, and on Ritalin and then Prozac, before the shootings.

As a forensic psychologist, I have clinically evaluated 30 young murderers, and almost all of them had been in some kind of treatment -- usually short-term and psychoactive drug-oriented -- before and during the homicides. This is despite numerous research reports warning that these prescriptions can spark acts of violence.

Better access to and availability of treatment as an answer to gun violence? Not in my opinion, and certainly not, in terms of how most therapy (short-term, drug focused) is currently practiced.

David Kirschner, Woodbury


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