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Jared Loughner’s Schizophrenia

October 24, 2012

Blog Post: Jared Loughner’s Schizophrenia by Ryan Lehman

I found an interesting article that was published on August 8, 2012 about Jared Loughner, the 23-year old mentally insane gunman who killed six and injured over a dozen more at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. Among those injured was U.S. House Representative Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head and suffered major brain damage, ultimately causing her to step down from her position. While this article makes it clear that Loughner will be in jail the rest of his life with no chance of parole, it also seems to point the finger at his Schizophrenia as the main reason for his mass-shooting.

While it is hard to predict such an awful occurrence like this, there were numerous signs that Loughner was not mentally competent. He was originally diagnosed with depression in 2006 after his girlfriend broke up with him, but refused to take his anti-depression medicine. It was at this point that Loughner became an outcast and psychotic thoughts began entering his head due to his deep depression and refusal to take medications. At Aztec Middle College in Tucson, Loughner often asked incoherent questions, spoke out in class, and brought up topics completely unrelated to the class discussion. He wrote poems in one class that talked about abortion, wars, violence, and strapping bombs to babies. Aside from his antics in class, he was known for having a short fuse and getting angry very easily. He would throw fits and have crying sessions that would last hours. Loughner frequently harmed himself and claimed that the radio was constantly inserting thoughts into his head. He would also laugh at things that would make almost any other person sad or cringe. All these things, on top of his intense drug habits, clearly meant that Loughner was mentally insane.

Dr. Christina Pietz, a forensic psychologist assigned to Jared Loughner in the state of Missouri, was quoted saying that Loughner was one of the worst mentally ill patients she had ever dealt with. When he first started working with her, his severe Schizophrenia was clearly apparent. She spent months working with Loughner, administering medication and helping him realize how to suppress the thoughts in his head. After weeks of medication and therapy sessions, a different side of Loughner appeared; one that showed remorse and sorrow for his actions. While Pietz says Loughner is doing much better today, he is currently on suicide watch in prison. He works several jobs in the penitentiary that give him a sense of pride, a psychosocial treatment that is essential for the sanity of a patient of this nature.

A sociological approach to this case would say that something about the environment Loughner was living in, whether it was his home, the city of Tucson, or who he was spending time with, was the primary reason for his insanity. His family has been described as one that completely kept to themselves and ignored neighbors whenever they got the chance. This gives a hint at the fact that maybe they weren’t friendly people or they despised people in general. As for the city, he grew up and lived in the Northern part of Tucson, which is home to some of the wealthier residents in the city. When talking specifically about Loughner’s neighborhood, there are videos on the Internet that show a modest, quiet neighborhood that he grew up in. By no means is this area wealthy, but at the same time worse living conditions that are far more dangerous can be found in the city of Tucson. As for his friends, he was known to have very few. He was seen as a loner throughout high school and college.

We learned in class that Schizophrenia affects primarily low-income individuals. A question that was posed at this time was: Is low income the cause of Schizophrenia or does Schizophrenia cause low income? While I would generally argue the latter, in the case of Loughner who was a college student and thus probably not relying on his own income to survive I’m not sure the Schizophrenia causes low-income theory fits. If I were guess, I would speculate that Loughner and his family were on the lower end of the income spectrum in Tucson, which would be below the median income in Tucson of $50,000. While the discussion of what came first the low income leading to Schizophrenia or the Schizophrenia leading to low income is a “one or the other” type question, I happen to think this is a special case of “overall living environment leading to Schizophrenia”. If you put together the facts prior to the his peculiar, Schizophrenic antics in the classroom- the area he grew up, his strange parents, low parent income level, few friends, and the breakup with his girlfriend that caused his depression- you can clearly see that there are a number of factors that probably contributed to his mental instability. In the end, I’d argue that income probably didn’t play as big a role here as did the breakup, lack of friends, and the bizarre parents he had. It’s hard to put yourself in such a strange, sick person’s shoes… but can you imagine? It must have been very hard to deal with what he was going through.

A question I pose to anyone reading this is: Should this shooting have been prevented? All the signs of a psycho were there. On top of these, I found almost an endless amount of quotes online from classmates saying they were scared to show up to class because Loughner scared them to death. Why did those around and close to Loughner ignore such obvious symptoms of mental illness? Why didn’t his parents do anything about his mental issues? How did the police continue to let him roam the streets after repeated arrests and clear signs of disorder? These are all extremely intriguing, thought-provoking questions that will probably never be answered.



One Comment leave one →
  1. October 29, 2012 7:08 pm

    I have to say, I think you’re making a number of assumptions here about his parents, and I don’t like that. It’s REALLY unfair to them. You *DO NOT KNOW* about his parents, other than that they kept to themselves. If Loughner had been a successful scientist, his parents might have been described as simply “private people.” You don’t know if they were odd; you also don’t know what, if any, attempts they made to deal with his mental illness. It is also possible that his mental illness actually showed up quite early in his life and that his family isolated themselves *due to his behavior.* We really *do not know*. What we DO know is that a number of people did not (in hindsight) do enough to stop him, despite some pretty obvious warnings (the odd poems, the inappropriate talking in class). I wonder why you didn’t bring up gun control? Isn’t that, also, a key variable to what happened here?

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