Criminal Minds: Mass Murderers and Mental Health


Reports of mass shootings are becoming much common these pasts few years. No matter how gruesome and heartbreaking these shootings are, no definite measures are in place to prevent such occurrence from repeating itself. Extreme pressure on gun control legislation and the call for mental health awareness and on the accessibility of treatments are seen by the general public as a solution to these heinous and senseless crimes.  However, experts believe that these tragedies are influenced by complex factors; many of these are still poorly understood. It is considered a myth that mental illness such schizophrenia will lead to mass shootings.

Killing too many

A mass shooting is a type of mass murder. Mass murder is characterized by the killing of three or more individuals at a given location within one event. Oftentimes, the motivation of the murderers is to kill as many people as possible and the perpetrator may use any means possible such as knives, bombs, guns, etc. This was seen in the movie house shooting in Aurora, Colorado wherein a perpetrator planted booby traps with bombs in his apartment in an attempt to further cause harm to others. Another good example of this is the Norway shooting wherein the criminal set off a bomb before proceeding with the shooting.

Mass murder such as mass shooting cannot be predicted most especially by someone outside the suspect’s social circle. Minimal research is available to provide better information to mental health professionals or law enforcers regarding the possible indications (problems, signs, and symptoms) that will lead an individual to commit mass murder.  A clinical study was done on 144 individuals who had a history of threatening some form of violence against others. 8 were identified to have threatened to commit mass homicide. All 8 of them stated that they plan to kill as many people as possible in their target specific group whom they have held grievances. In a 12-month study period, none of 8 carried out their plans; however, 2 of the 8 subjects assaulted a person unrelated to the target group.

The Executioner’s Mind

Experts say that mass murder perpetrator commonly have extreme feelings of revenge and anger, social alienation, lack of accomplice, and complex planning of the mass murder. Normally, mass murderers don’t expect to survive their attacks. They expect to be killed by the police or would plan to commit suicide. However, based on the police’s clinical study on five mass murders that were able to survive their attack, it was found out that the subjects were isolated or bullied during childhood, loners who felt social isolation and despair. They also showcased paranoid traits such as grudge holding and suspiciousness. These individuals demonstrate paranoid mindset, thus, generally believing that others are uncaring and rejecting.  As a result, they spent a great deal of time feeling ruminating and resentful on past humiliations.

The public coverage of mass shootings overshadows one of the most tragic public health concerns that is gun violence including suicide. Evidence shows that suicide and not homicide is the most significant issue when it comes to gun and violence. Furthermore, the latest research suggests that in general, there’s minimal relationship between psychiatric disorder and violence. Experts recommend to further study on narcissism and socio-cultural factors that are often neglected when investigating mass murders and mass shootings.


Subtle Hints

The perpetrator sometimes leaves pieces of evidence on the plan to commit the crime. Most of the time, the discovery of these materials or information is already late, that is, once the crime has been committed and an investigation has been started that they discover the identity and nature of the person. Nonetheless, if you are suspecting of something out of the ordinary (which is sometimes very hard to detect), it is best to inform the authorities about it. If you are a family member, seek out help from a mental health professional. Let someone know about your concerns, whether it is someone you know and love or an online therapy service with a licensed counselor.