John Oliver: why do we only talk about mental health after mass-shootings?

Yeah I understand, I can see where you are coming from and what you write seems well intended, it’s just that what Oliver is saying here involves some really profound misconceptions that most of us have about these kinds of events.

It takes some effort to get your head around it. David McRaney covered it briefly in one of his podcasts, I tried to find a reference to it but couldn’t, it is deep stuff.

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See this? It’s about California successfully identifying nuts and making them do nutty things somewhere else.

There’s a counter-point here about passing the buck, but look at the big picture…these folks moved so that being crazier would be easier. That ain’t healthy.

So by that definition all criminals are mentally ill? All gang members are mentally ill? All police who shoot people are mentally ill? All army soldiers that kill people are mentally ill? Just trying to understand the logic.

I think it is way easier to cross the line to violence then you are realizing, and that it is more often done by people who have no mental illness. Again, less then 12% of gun homicides involve someone with mental illness.

Most people who own guns do so in case they need to commit an act of violence in self defense. See how easily an act of violence can be justified?

I’d argue that it is never okay not even for self defense.

I agree with this, it is a symptom of societal conditions and pressures, not mental health.


If we say, “A member of our society who is not a criminal does not do this…”. What’s the difference between that, and “A person who is mentally healthy will not…”?

I’m not saying that’s right, but it’s social truth.

By definition, healthy people don’t break the law.

And I agree that these conditions can lead to an utter breakdown of mental health.

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Ima just leave this here…

Have they added jaywalking to the DSM-5 yet? Perhaps it’s in the same section as drapetomania?


You ain’t wrong, but I maintain…

We are measuring mental health incorrectly, then. The statistic is 100%. Anyone who’d pick up a gun as an answer to life’s problems is bent. So we are not measuring it properly.

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Says who? I say mental health status determination is being applied incorrectly.

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Millions and millions of people killed animals and each other for hundreds of thousands of years, as the normal course of life. In order to survive, in revenge, and doubtlessly sometimes just for the hell of it.

Were every last one of them mentally broken?

I think there’s a chauvanism to modern thinking. Once during our country’s history, many people could justify to themselves, and sleep well at night their ownership of slaves. Were they, every last one of them mentally ill? Perhaps, but perhaps what we call mental illness, was normal and accepted in times past, and perhaps some of what we consider mentally illnesses today, will be seen as absolutely a normal part of the healthy population in the future…

I’ve been smoking some funny stuff though, so I’m thinking a lot less judgmentally. Perhaps I’m not making sense.


We don’t live in those times, we live now. I see the point you are making, but I still am of the opinion that we are measuring mental health wrong. Here, take a trip through the broad categories of disorders:

And cast your mind back the the mass-killers’ profiles, as we have been presented them in the media. Not all mass killers are the same. But there are some pretty striking stand-out characteristics that you can see even in the broad categories, without even drilling down into the specific symptoms.

So, I think John Oliver’s 12% statistic is off. Way off. Mental health is not being evaluated well, which is an indication of how poor our mental health system is: we don’t give a rat’s ass about it and so it doesn’t do its job correctly.

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I can’t disagree with you there. As far as I see it, we’re expressing very similar ideas, but with different applied biases. And that’s cool. We’re not brain-clones or anything.

Hey and nobody had to tell the other one to have sex with himself and travel somewhere to do it. No wonder we shorten that phrase down to three words; that was an… eherm… mouthful. THis is getting worse.

Where in the world are you? I am in sunny Texas, but the sun is not out yet.

Seattle. Of course. The air is thick enough, and the recreational pot is legal enough that I can have thoughts I normally dismiss, instead of hemorrhaging from the upper frontal facehole, as Zoidberg might put it.

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The stats were quoted in the first three minutes of the video.


Weird side note. I clicked on a clickbait yesterday. It was a slideshow about the worst mass killings in the USA over the last 50 or 60 years. Over and over, I saw this weird thing: the commonest number that the worst mass killers kill is 13 people. It happens again and again. Sure, there are other numbers all over the place. But the one that keeps coming up is 13 victims.

OK, well I guess its up to you to substantiate that. It’s consistent with my understanding, which admittedly is based on information I haven’t been able to source.

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Multiply the array of commonly available weapons’ standard and aftermarket magazine capacities, by the array of accuracies of people who have varying experience with firearms and realistic firearm simulations… Then you have a relatively interesting constant for the number of victims given everyone’s average accuracy and some constant for the target density. And probably other variables because things are never that simple. I wouldn’t start at 13… That’s working backwards from the scientific method. We should start from somewhere further out and work towards the models that might reasonably predict those thirteens. And then see what those models might predict…

Or is that plan just as bad? I can’t tell… It seems like we should test with extra scrutiny patterns that coincide with superstitions.

I dunno. All I know is what I saw… clusters of 13 come up a disproportionate number of times. If I had to plot it, I would say it’s a zero-bounded right tailed distribution with a noticeable spike (or cliff) at 13. Which is 14 if you include the killer who killed himself after he killed the 13 people. But I digress.