Separating mental illness from terrorism

Governments, police and news outlets are too eager to blame recent deaths on terrorism when mental illness is likely the culprit.

Before jumping on the ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’ bandwagon police and news agencies should first find out the whole truth and not the superficial truth behind a ‘terrorist’ act like those in Ottawa recently.

Before announcing a news story reporters should remember the 5 W’s of reporting; Who, What, When, Where, Why.

Terrorism drives fear, fear drives protection, protection removes freedoms.

“Terrorism” or “terrorist” sells far better to the public than “mentally ill” does, after all we all know someone who has some mental illness of some kind and so the term ‘mentally ill’ doesn’t strike the fear necessary to sell newspapers, increase police surveillance, and restrict personal freedoms.

By linking violent acts to terrorism the police and governments move quickly to restrict or remove personal freedoms previously enjoyed by citizens:

“Why We Need to Resist Quick-Fix Anti-Terrorism Measures” article by Dr. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa.

“Accelerated review of police abilities’ underway, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney says” from the CBC may be read here.

“Conservatives’ new anti-terror laws likely to mirror ‘immensely controversial’ U.K. legislation” from the National Post may be read here.

“Canadians must not trade freedom for the illusion of security” from The Tyee may be read here.

So while governments and police use ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’ to remove more freedoms from citizens the same governments and police do nothing about one cause for why a person may become a terrorist; mental illness. That’s like a doctor coming to perform emergency surgery on a dead patient.


“Home-Grown Terrorists: Actually Terrorists or Mentally Ill?” may be read here.

“The Line Between Terrorism and Mental Illness” may be read here.

“Why Can’t Terrorists Be Mentally Ill, Too?” may be read here.

“Ottawa shooting: Was Michael Zehaf-Bibeau a terrorist or mentally ill?” may be read here.

“Ottawa gunman was mentally ill and ‘wanted to die’ says his mother” may be read here.