Whenever a new mass shooting occurs, far-right conservatives, like Tucker Carlson, take it upon themselves to blame the mentally ill, and specifically, SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs, otherwise known as antidepressants. It is particularly odious when Carlson does this, given his high profile status among far-right conservatives and his primetime spot on Fox News Channel, albeit, it is always worth pointing out that despite leading the Channel to being the most watched cable news network on TV, Tucker Carlson Tonight still only garners 461,000 viewers among the key demo of 25-54, and 2.654 million viewers overall.
The latest mass shooting was on July 4th at Highland Park in Illinois, which left seven dead and injured two dozen more. The next day, Carlson decried SSRIs, which he said were being handed out at “every school in the country by crackpots posing as counselors.” He later said males who have been prescribed such drugs by their teachers include “quite a few mass shooters.”
I’m not even sure where this belief that school counselors are prescribing drugs to students comes from. As far as I can tell, a school counselor, or psychologist, is not going to be providing medications to students.
According to the American School Counselor Association, “Because of school counselors’ training and position, they are uniquely qualified to provide instruction, appraisal and advisement and short-term counseling to students and referral services to students and their families.”
In other words, they may refer the student to an outside professional.
But what about the other claim from Tucker, that mass shooters have been prescribed such drugs? Politifact looked into this, and made a worthwhile point: 42 million Americans have taken antidepressants, with the highest rate among women and those over 60. Those are two demographics not known for being mass shooters. Point being, if these drugs were dangerous and slippery slopes to violence, we would expect to see substantially more violence, including mass shootings.
Other studies, like this one, have concluded that the attempt to make a link between serious mental illness and violence is “weaker than the public imagines or the media portrays, and rarely causal.”
“Serious mental illness plays a limited role—it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for mass violence,” the study’s authors said.
Still more studies, like the one reference here, found that only 11 percent of all mass murderers (including shooters) and only 8 percent of mass shooters had a serious mental illness.
An article in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry is even more unambiguous on the point, “The vast majority of violent gun crimes are perpetrated by people who would never be committable to a psychiatric hospital, and the important correlates of violent behavior tend to be the same in psychiatric and nonpsychiatric populations—for example, being young, male, or socially disadvantaged, exposure to trauma in early life, and using drugs and alcohol to excess.”
Tucker is fear-mongering about SSRIs. To make them seem dangerous as the impetus for violence. That these drugs make the kids “numb” and then, along with a confluence of porn, video games, social media, and angry women talking about male privilege (yes, he cited all of these), as well as “being high on government-endorsed weed,” they commit violence.
Laughable. That is the only word that comes to mind for anyone who takes any piece, or the whole as presented by Tucker, seriously. I’m not going to weigh in on the other bits of that, but suffice it to say, men in positions of power, like Tucker, have been blaming porn, video games, social media, and yes, women, for the violent actions of men for decades.
But specifically on SSRIs, he is empirically wrong. Not that he cares about that, nor does his audience, but still, at any chance we get, those of us of sensible minds have an obligation to push back against the stigmatizing of mental illness. I find trying to cast aspersions on SSRIs to be a form of stigmatizing, because SSRIs can save lives, and if we scare people off of them, that has a cost.
Speaking for myself, I feel confident at this point in declaring, as I have in the past, that SSRIs saved my life. I’m convinced that without taking my current antidepressant, I would have died a year and a half ago. Or at least, I was heading that way.
The Tucker segment is gross for its misogyny, stigmatization, fear-mongering over easy scapegoats, and for its implication that millions of men are capable of being mass shooters. You’d be hard pressed to watch that clip and not think that Tucker … sympathizes with the July 4th shooter.
Weirdly, I think if the shooter was of a different race, or gender, or religion, or country, Tucker wouldn’t be making those same arguments. Alas.