Stop Mistaking Evil for Mental Illness

I know almost nothing of the mental condition of confessed mass murderer Nikolas Cruz, and almost certainly, neither do you.  There are few, if any, who can give a reliable opinion of the young man's psychiatric state as he walked into Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and killed 17.  Nevertheless, after his killing spree on Ash Wednesday, many in the media, along with the public at large, were willing at least to indirectly portray, if not directly describe, Mr. Cruz as someone who was "mentally disturbed," "mentally ill," "crazy," a "nut-job," a "psycho," someone dealing with "mental health issues," and so on.

In his tweet about the shooting, even President Trump noted that there were "So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed..."  In his official statement the day after the horrific incident, the president declared that he wanted to work with state and local officials to "tackle the difficult issue of mental health."

As our culture grows more and more secularized, it has become a common practice to describe those who commit widespread acts of violence – especially if such violence involves the death of multiple human beings – as "crazy."  Some of this is tongue-in-cheek, but much of it is sincere.  I believe that this is the direct result of the psychiatric community attempting to redefine what is moral.

For decades, we have witnessed the psychiatric community taking acts long considered evil, or at least immoral and illegal, and deeming them a "psychological disorder" that needs to be cured.  It's good for business, I suppose.

However, it's a disaster for the culture.  As C.S. Lewis lamented in his essay "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment," when it comes to crime and punishment, we too often are facing off with those who believe "that all crime is more or less pathological."  Thus, instead of the criminal "getting what he deserves" – what used to be called "justice" – we must heal or cure him, and, as Lewis puts it, "punishment becomes therapeutic."

This "humanitarian" approach removes from punishment the concept of "desert" (pronounced d'ZERT).  As Lewis puts it:

[The] concept of Desert is the only connecting link between punishment and justice. It is only as deserved or undeserved that a sentence can be just or unjust...Thus when we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him or deter others, we have tacitly removed him from the sphere of justice altogether; instead of a person, a subject of rights, we now have a mere object, a patient, a 'case'.

When a wicked government has in its hands such a view of crime and punishment, it will possess a "finer instrument of tyranny than wickedness ever had before.  For if crime and disease are to be regarded as the same thing, it follows that any state of mind which masters choose to call 'disease' can be treated as crime; and compulsory cured."  As Lewis adds:

We know that one school of psychology already regards religion as a neurosis.  When this particular neurosis becomes inconvenient to government, what is to hinder government from proceeding to 'cure' it?

Joy Behar – and a host of others, I imagine – would not be disappointed with such a government.

What's more, when certain behaviors go from crimes to be punished to diseases to be cured, we remove the power of sentencing from jurists and place it in the hands of "doctors," who often know little of truth and justice.  Lacking in such critical knowledge, left to their own "wisdom," it would not be far-fetched to see these "doctors" decide that some diseases – that were once considered crimes – are no longer crimes or diseases.  Are we not now witnessing this, especially when it comes to things in the sexual realm?

For example, in spite of the long history of treating "transsexuality" as a disorder to be cured, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the DSM 5) that was released in early 2013 removed "gender identity disorder" from its list of disorders.  It was removed because, as the Associated Press recently put it, "a growing faction of medical experts ... no longer see this as something to be fixed."

In other words, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) – who owns and publishes the DSM – decided that "gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder."  In other words, our so-called best psychological experts have now decided that there's nothing wrong with men who wish to pretend they are women and vice-versa.

As time moves on and such perversion prevails, the list of disastrous consequences grows.  Recent reports reveal that Juvenile Court judge Sylvia Hendonhas permanently removed an Ohio teenager from her parents' home because of the parents' refusal to support their daughter's decision to identify as a boy.  In particular, they refused to permit their daughter to receive dangerous hormone therapy to aid in her gender "transition."

Tony Perkins notes:

What's especially alarming is that a lawyer representing the child – as well as Donald Clancy of the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office – cited the parents' religious beliefs as an argument for robbing them of their rights! The mom and dad are being criticized for seeking out a Christian therapist for their daughter and for daring to send her to Catholic school. 

Thus, the wicked cycle is complete: what was once considered evil or criminal, or at least bad behavior, is now considered sickness; what once was considered sickness is now considered normal and healthy; and what was once considered normal, wise, or moral behavior is now punished by our "enlightened" law.

We were warned of such folly by no less than those within the psychiatric community.  Doctor Allen Frances, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Duke University, who chaired the task force that produced the DSM 4, called the release of the "deeply flawed" DSM 5 "the saddest moment in my 45 year career of studying, practicing, and teaching psychiatry."

In addition to other concerns, Dr. Frances lamented the addition of such "disorders" as Disruptive Mood Dysregulation, which, according to Frances, "will turn temper tantrums into a mental disorder."  Also, "Normal grief will become Major Depressive Disorder" and the DSM 5 "will likely trigger a fad of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder [you've probably seen the commercials] leading to widespread misuse of stimulant drugs for performance enhancement and recreation."

Frances should not be surprised.  Practicing psychotherapist Gary Greenburg says not one of the disorders in the DSM is real.  Greenburg claims that the DSM is nothing more than an exercise in rhetoric, an attempt to legitimize the practice of psychiatry.  "Can you define mental illness?" The Atlantic asked Greenburg.  "No.  Nobody can," he replied.

In a culture that is increasingly more hesitant to use the word "evil," Greenburg concludes that having the APA classify certain behaviors as "disorders" is a way to remove the moral aspect behind certain behaviors.

After all, if someone is sick, then he is not responsible for his behavior.  (What's more, he can then be treated with expensive drugs and therapy.)  And if someone's "sickness" is suddenly no longer a sickness, and if it is no longer immoral, then we can celebrate and welcome him into our ever more tolerant society.

Such thinking has had a devastating effect on parenting.  Instead of dealing with their children's bad behavior as requiring good moral discipline, many parents – who have become increasingly ignorant of what is moral behavior – are simply looking to provide their misbehaving children with medication or therapy.  Thus, millions of U.S. children are now on powerful psychotic drugs.

One of the least reported aspects of these mass murderers like Nikolas Cruz is how many of them were on psychiatric medications.  This isn't to imply that drugs or mental illness are to blame for their horrific behavior, but rather to note that likely, instead of a proper moral upbringing, these killers were given drugs and therapy.

A culture that confuses evil with sickness and refuses to see evil for what it is and deal with it accordingly does no favors for those guilty of evil, their victims, the culture at large, or those who are truly mentally ill.

Trevor Grant Thomas: At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor is the author of the The Miracle and Magnificence of America.

If you experience technical problems, please write to