Mental instability?

Published 10:23 pm Monday, April 23, 2018

By Joe Bass

It is not difficult to think that serious social challenges exist today. It is clear some feel great anger, and a few act out in inappropriate, harmful and, in some cases, murderous ways. Extreme cases of acting out are commonly seen among mentally unstable individuals.

In attempts to solve these problems, a question is commonly heard. Has there been an increase in mentally unstable people? This question is asked because until the mid-1960s, we did not experience mass shootings, and today most are carried out by people that are not quite right.


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Being an old guy with a good memory, I can relate that there have always been some really strange folks living among us. The difference between today and in the past is that they didn’t kill anyone and didn’t make the news. When I was nine in the fourth grade, there was Johnny. He joined our class in the middle of the year. He was taller than everyone. His desk was in the back. He was moody and didn’t participate in class or even recess.

Johnny was in the room but mentally he wasn’t, except when the teacher left. Then, Johnny would march to the front in military fashion and say, “Watch this!” With his right shoulder to the students, he would hold his body stiff and fall backward to the floor. When he hit with a thud his body was still stiff as a board. He would do this a couple of times, march back to his seat and return to his moody silence. It didn’t take long for Johnny to disappear from the school never to return. I often wondered what happen to him.

During the years leading up to high school graduation in 1960, there were several students that demonstrated characteristics that were seriously out of the mainstream of thinking and behavior, but a Google search will not result in a “hit” on their names.

Is it difficult to think that the stability of society prior to the mid-1960s was a factor in keeping mentally unstable people from going off the deep end and feeling that killing innocents and themselves was a good idea? Certainly, they could have taken that route, being as firearms were easily available and many teenagers had their own rifles, shotguns and handguns from an early age.

Is it difficult to think that the instability of society today and the level of anger expressed plays a major role in stimulating mentally unstable people to act out murderously? Today solutions to these challenges focus on improved mental health treatment and gun control. Improved mental health treatment sounds like a good idea, but will it really address the problems? And why spend millions on government mechanisms for restricting firearms, being as firearms were easily available when society was safe and stable?

Shouldn’t our focus be on the analyzing changes that occurred in the mid-1960s when random killings started to happen? Many good things have happened since then, but shouldn’t there be efforts to understand what caused the negatives?

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at