What drives humans to go on killing sprees?

Image via http://www.aljazeera.com/
Image via http://www.aljazeera.com/

Multiple mysteries of mass murders

By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer

It seems like almost every day there’s a horrifying news story about a group of people dead, killed by a fellow human being. While mass shootings in the US dominate headlines, these tragedies occur globally with many weapons. Eighty-four people were murdered in Nice, France, using a truck. Nineteen people were stabbed to death in Tokyo, Japan. Ten people were shot to death in Munich, Germany. That was just in the last month.

While violent thoughts and fantasies are quite common, it’s of course much rarer that they are acted upon. What drives people to commit these horrible acts, to take away the lives of so many people? What can we do to prevent this sort of thing from happening? Is it simply impossible to avoid?

Although group killings occur everywhere and have many contributing factors, access to guns is absolutely a major reason why this sort of thing happens. Guns are designed to kill, and many models are able to kill people much faster than any other type of weapon. Mass shootings (four or more injured) occur in the US almost daily. While the vast majority of Americans support restricting gun access to high-risk individuals, numerous organizations and politicians prevent this from becoming law.

Undoubtedly, 0ne of the biggest contributions is poor mental health. While the vast majority of those with mental health problems are not homicidal or violent, most spree killers nonetheless have serious untreated issues. These include general aggressive, violent, and homicidal tendencies. It likely also includes untreated mood disorders that trigger these tendencies, which often involve disassociation. Unfortunately, societal stigma towards those with mental health problems cause many to avoid getting treatment. Steps can be taken to recognize and intervene before violent acts are planned and carried out.

Poor support from family and society can contribute to aggression, violence, and worsening mental health. While blaming entire cultures is not the answer, it is true that many cultural values can enable certain behaviours. Discussing one’s mental health issues often carries a huge stigma, and is discouraged and/or suppressed. Hyper-masculine values give men (almost always the perpetrators) unhealthy ideas on their identity, associating masculinity with violence and oppression.

No two perpetrators will have the exact same ideology, and in most instances, they die during or shortly after the incident via suicide or law enforcement, making one difficult to ascertain. A motive can be withdrawn from those who survive, emerging during the evidence found in their trials. Nevertheless, the exact “tick” that causes someone to do the act remains a mystery.

Those who commit these acts of evil were not necessarily always horrible people beyond any means of redemption. Many of them grew up sensitive, bullied, and repressed. Poor mental health and environmental factors, combined with a particular person’s brain chemistry, can ultimately result in them committing a horrible act.

We can’t detect and prevent every horrible act of evil that exists in the world. But by recognizing the factors and showing compassion, empathy, and love for at-risk individuals, we can hopefully help lower the number of people who resort to these actions.