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Are People with Bipolar Disorder Violent?

Robin Kahler is a patient who was diagnosed with affective bipolar disorder in 1988. She works from her home in Tucson, Arizona, as an ...Read More

They say we are having more earthquakes and that is a sign of the end of the world. I think because scientists have placed over ten thousand new seismographs in the earth in the last few years, we are more aware of the earthquakes and their number may be the same as it has always been.

I live in Tucson, Arizona, where we had a mass murder last month. You may have heard about it, the one where Congresswoman Giffords was shot while hosting an outdoor meeting in the parking lot of a supermarket. They say mass murder is as rare as an earthquake, but I’ve managed to live near a few of them in my lifetime and I’ve learned to watch my surroundings when I’m out and about.

The young man who shot the Congresswoman and 18 people in the small crowd with her, is Jared Loughner. Most people say that he is insane. I’m not a doctor, but I am bipolar and I have been in states of complete mania, and I think I know what it feels like to feel insane. In short, I don’t know if I agree that Loughner is insane.

The truth of the matter is that just because you have a mental illness; does not mean you are violent. I know that each person needs to be evaluated on an individual basis, but I believe that includes every individual, not just those of us who have a diagnosis; sane people murder, too.

When I had my wildest mania I was too paranoid to answer my phone. Every time it rang I would stand near it and scream, “Don’t answer it! Don’t answer it!” I was convinced that an electric shock would come through the wires and kill whomever picked up the receiver. I was totally “out of touch”, but I wasn’t violent.

I tried to go to the library to find a book that would explain the voices in my head. But I couldn’t make a decision as to which book I should check out. The thousands of books on the shelves overwhelmed me. But I didn’t shoot the librarian.

Which brings me back to Jared Loughner. On the Saturday morning when he shot 19 people at point blank range, he made a decision to hide his car and take a taxi to the sight of the shooting. He gave the taxi cab driver a $20 and then demanded that the driver go into the Safeway supermarket to get change for the remainder of his tab. Loughner is seen on film buying earplugs, then going into the men’s room and inserting the plugs before he went outside and shot a 9 year old child through her abdomen, along with the others he shot, until he was wrestled to the ground by a senior citizen who wasn’t ready to die.

Of course, I can only judge by my own times of insanity, but I know that I could never make those decisions while manic. Loughner is to be placed on trial here in Tucson. He should pray that I am not called to jury duty because the only thing that I see that is insane concerning him, is his plea of “Not Guilty”.

Once again, just because a person has a mental illness, does not mean they are violent. In fact, the people I know who are bipolar are very gentle, even to the extreme. I have to ask my husband to open a can of Pillsbury dinner rolls, because I dislike slamming the can down onto the counter, and I hate the sudden POP. I am not unlike most bipolar patients, most of us are non-violent.

So while we hear the call go out for more help for the mentally ill, please, let us not go to the extreme and assume that everyone with a mental illness will commit a criminal act.

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