Social Integration’s Impact
Sociologist Émile Durkheim’s theories on suicide seem actually to accurately reflect the motivations behind so many mass-casualty events of today. This reality demonstrates public health in crisis. Durkheim’s theories postulate that suicide has much to do with social integration. As is the case for suicide bombers, Durkheim believed that too much social integration could also lead to suicide. These perpetrators believe in their people and in their way of life to such a high degree that they are even willing to die for the cause. Here, we will unpack the factors attributed to perpetrators of violence that demonstrate public health in crisis.
Loneliness and Lack of Purpose
Perpetrators of violence, like the recent one who carried out the mass shooting in Buffalo, NY, often have other motivations described by the same sociologist. These people are often experiencing a high-level of what Durkheim called “anomie”. They are unable to form or maintain meaningful bonds with others. In addition, they have a hard time picturing a place for themselves within their society or in their society’s futures. Men are particularly vulnerable to the experience of social isolation because they are socialized to be completely independent and to not reach out for help.
This is in-line with what Sue Klebold described in a public speaking event, which was posted on the TED YouTube channel. Klebold, the mother of one of the shooters of Columbine High School’s deadly 1999 shooting was transparent. In fact, she willingly opened up about her son’s mental health and suicidality.
“When someone is in an extremely suicidal state, they are in a stage four medical health emergency,” Klebold said. “Their thinking is impaired, and they’ve lost access to tools of self-governance. Even though they can make a plan and act with logic, their sense of truth is distorted by a filter of pain through which they interpret their reality.”
People like Klebold share their experiences in the hope that no other parent will suffer like she has suffered. Klebold admits that her son did what he did because he was in unbearable pain. Despite the pain her son inflicted on the family’s of the dead and on his survivors, Klebold believes her speaking out about prevention can finally put an end to the cycle of violence.
We would love to keep the conversation going. What are your thoughts about the reality of the public health crisis in America?