Mental Illness and the Decline of Civilization


I walked down the cold halls of the courthouse and stopped in front of a prosecutor’s office.  Taped on her door, somewhat crooked,  was an 8×11 piece of paper with the following quote:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

The post had obviously been there for awhile and it showed the wear and tear of countless people coming and going through the door of this busy office.

What shocked me the most is that 1) this particular prosecutor was in the Juvenile Court and 2) the timeless words were attributed to none other than SOCRATES who lived  in 470-339 BC. Socrates was a moral philosopher who concerned himself with ethical traditions as described by his student Plato.

The note was clearly placed there as an irony and I took it as such. Until, that is, I learned of yet another shooting being attributed to Mental Illness.

The rhetoric we hear weekly (there was at least one mass shooting every week in the year 2018 and approximately 30 so far in 2019) is much like the rhetoric Socrates was using to describe the plight of civilization and our youth: For generations we have blamed the young for our failings and, most recently when our youth are the target of senseless violence, we find mental illness to be the next likely place to turn.

The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them.

(From a sermon preached by Peter the Hermit in A.D. 1274)


It seems that our world has been in “troublous times” since the dawn of time. But, at a lecture I attended with Dr Charles Dike, Medical Director of Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, I had mixed feelings about modern perceptions of  just how “bad off” we really are.



Based upon my own research and that of Dr Dike, let me dispel some common misconceptions here.

Misconception Reality
Homicide is on the Rise 67/88 Countries report Decline in Homicide
Violent Crime in America is on the rise There has been a 48% decrease of Violent Crime over the last 15 years in America
Mental Health is a concern for a select few Mental Health is something that impacts us all through family, socialization and culture.
Children are abducted at an alarming rate The Rate of missing children is down 44% since 1977
We should remove guns from all persons with Mental Illnesses because Mental illness leads to gun violence (Trump) Less than 5% of violent crimes involve a person with mental illness
We need a national registry of the Mentally Ill in order to prevent delusional killers from acting (NRA) 60% of gun deaths in this country are due to suicide
Psychosis is an indicator of violence Psychopathology is more likely to result in crime. So is simply being a white male.
People with Mental illness are more likely to commit crimes People with mental illness are more likely to be the victim of violent crimes
Gun Ownership should be restricted There are more guns In the US than people  (330m vs 360m) – Access is the issue


This is in no way meant to re-kindle the never-ending vitriol about the “Right to Bear Arms” or the need to own assault weapons. Instead, it is yet another attempt to dispel the myth that the media and politicians would like us to believe regarding mental illness and violent crimes.

Quite simply, blaming mental illness for violent crime is as productive and scientific as blaming the decline of civilization due to our wayward youth year after year, generation after generation.  Likewise, pointing at mental illness as a reason for,  rather than a result of, our failing civilization does little more than perpetuate status quo and create unwarranted stereotyping.

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight”. Romans 12:16