Letter to the New York Times by Henry J. Friedman

To the Editor:

Re “I Can’t Stop Mass Shooters,” by Amy Barnhorst (Op-Ed, Feb. 21):

As a psychiatrist practicing for many decades, I have long understood the problems that stop mental health professionals from effectively preventing angry, hating young men from using automatic weapons to murder large numbers of young people whom they both envy and hate.

Dr. Barnhorst has described her experience as an emergency psychiatrist so clearly that anyone who reads her article should be able to comprehend why reliance upon psychiatrists and other mental health workers to prevent future occurrence of mass murders is unrealistic.

As she demonstrates, it may be easy as a psychiatrist to hospitalize and treat a delusional patient experiencing command hallucinations, but this isn’t the case with the kind of raging young man intent on revenge against those he blames for his outsider misery.

Dr. Barnhorst’s article is an example of a psychiatrist successfully educating the public and her colleagues in psychiatry about the limitations of concentrating on mental illness as the cause of mass murders.


The writer is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

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