Our Sickness is Killing Us One Bullet at a Time

a country’s collective mental illness and what we can do

The United States of America is suffering from collected mental illness.

And it is killing us one bullet at a time. When multiple mass shootings shock the country, again, the subject of gun control is once more at the top of the new hour.

But this is about so much more than gun control and we all know it. We know there is something wrong with us and we don’t want to talk about it.

Gun Violence is a symptom of our collective mental illness. This was my first thought as I broke through the sleep surface this morning and entered the tense reality of today. I have to be honest; I am losing sleep over the state of my country. A country that gave me barefoot summers growing up. A country I love.

We do not like to admit as a country that we need any kind of help. We are the winners right? The most progressive, successful, progressed, advanced, a world leader in every sense. But we are broken.

Image by dietcheese from Pixabay

What do the experts say?

The Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy published Bostock and Bostock’s Disorders of the Collective Mental State in 2017 analyzing the concept primarily through the lens of what appeared to be a collective depressive state in Britain following the 1997 death of the widely-beloved Princess Diana.

Abstract: In 1997, after the death of Princess Diana, the British popular press declared that Britain was having a “collective nervous breakdown”. This paper considers whether it is possible to assert that a collective mental state could exist, such that it could have a “breakdown” (to use a non-technical term). In reality, the concept of the collective mental state has a long history, but it also has a well-known critique called Methodological Individualism, where thoughts and actions can only be attributed to individuals. If the concept of the collective mental state is valid, then it is possible to argue that the normal functioning of a group, community, or whole society, that is, a collectivity, can be disrupted by contagion, and that it can be said to be disordered. Some of the common large-scale disorders that have been recognised are depression, fear, aggression, desensitization and acceptance of genocide. Thus, the concept of the collective mental state can provide a valuable transdisciplinary vehicle for the investigation of some of the great issues confronting humankind. Collective Mental State

Following her death, the media began reporting that Britain was having a “collective nervous breakdown.” A country in mourning over someone loved so dearly is not so shocking. We experienced the same thing here in the US after 9/11. There is some psychological basis to this theory of collective illness that to my super-analytical and socially-aware mind applies to the heightened state of fear and violence in the US right now. (If you are currently in denial — please see the link for “Mass Shooting Tracker,” earlier in this article.)

Consider this portion of an article on FQS: Volume 3, №3, Art. 1 — September 2002, (also written by William W. Bostock) entitled Collective Mental State and Individual Agency: Qualitative Factors in Social Science Explanation. I will embolden some terms:

A survey of current social science literature finds reference to collective dignity (SMITH, 1991, p.163), collective fear (LAKE & ROTHCHILD, 1996), collective memory (TAKEI, 1998), and collective consciousness (MUNAYYER, 1999). Other disciplines reveal a longer but also intermittent interest. Collective anxiety neurosis was hypothesised by the psychiatrist KIEV (1973), collective habituation to genocide was discussed by the psychoanalyst SHATAN (1976, p.122), and collective trauma from the perspective of health care by MYERS (1999). Collective responsibility (HARFF, 1995) has also been discussed as an issue of moral philosophy. Language is a collective phenomenon — “Language expresses the collective experience of a group” (HERDER in SMITH, 1981, p.45) — and is a collective right (KYMLICKA, 1995) or droit collectif (BRETON, 1997, p.47). Economists in their study of consumer behaviour have identified a state of collective depression (TIKKUN, 1997, p.3). Psycho-politics and psychohistory are also important approaches to collective mental state, in particular the importance of trauma during childhood (SCHARF, 2000). Organisational theorists have considered collective organisational anxiety as an important factor in their subject of interest which is a collective mental model (VOYER, GOULD & FORD, 1996). All of these conditions can be grouped under the general category of collective mental state. [7] — FQS, Bostock

The theories involving collective societal responses are wide and varied and not without opposition, but what is clear to me is that in the current state of the U.S. there is a rise in gun violence and intolerance. These are perpetuated by an inflated sense of self, by the media, and by a leader who divides with harmful rhetoric that encourages self-serving behavior, seething anger, and the outward hate of others.

When liberty comes with hands dabbled in blood it is hard to shake hands with her.

Oscar Wilde

Furthermore, in these times, we need a leader — a morale-lifting leader who encourages us all to be better people. Following the harsh rhetoric of the Trump era, will we find the compassionate leadership we need in President Biden? Only time will tell.

9/11 did a number on us as a country. Continued inundation of hate-filled political rhetoric feeds a sense of collective frustration and negativity. Violence bubbles to the surface through our extremists. Consider the words of Oscar Wilde: When liberty comes with hands dabbled in blood it is hard to shake hands with her.

Gun Control and Mental Health Care, NOW.

We need gun control measures immediately. We need to put the health and wellness of our country as a whole to the forefront of our minds and actions. We need to make mental healthcare not only readily available, but a priority amongst families and communities, and remove the sigma attached to mental illness. We need to pay attention to the moral degeneration of our country as a unit. Our leaders, mental health professionals, sociology and crime experts — among others, need to speak on these matters immediately, especially to our lawmakers.

And we need to do it now, before more people die.

Every single American needs to think of this as their problem, whether they are the ones wielding a weapon in a public arena and aiming to kill as many people as possible, or whether we are sitting at home watching it all unfold on our television screens and computers. This problem belongs to all of us. The problem is all of us.

𝘐 𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘯𝘦𝘥 𝘮𝘺 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘢 𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭-𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘳. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘰𝘢𝘥 𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘴 𝘮𝘺 𝘫𝘢𝘮.

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