Under the title ‘The Batman Killer – a prescription for murder?‘ the BBC investigative programme Panorama has suggested that James Holmes, the ‘Batman Killer’ – so named for having opened fire and killed 12 people inside a cinema watching Batman – only committed the crime because of the medication he was on.
The piece basis its entire theory on just one man, Prof David Healey, who is a long time opponent of anti-depressants. What I find disturbing is that within the piece there are no counter arguments specific to the case – a quote or two from Mind to say antidepressants help many people, but no look counter view as to the particulars of this case.
We know that those with mental health conditions are statistically far less likely to commit violent crimes than those without, yet irresponsible, one-sided reporting like this continues. The stigma around such issues is part of the reason people do not reach out and do not seek help or refuse to take medication, which in turn leads to a suicide rate that is frighteningly high (main cause of death in men under 45).
Medication does not work for all but has shown positive effects in millions and surely saved a huge number of lives. Where is the balance in the reporting? Where is the evidence of the meds causing this massacre, and without solid evidence why put out a programme that will frighten off many from taking the medication they require.
Panorama is a serious and well respected programme, which only increases the levels of responsibility they ought to feel in creating a piece like this. As anyone who has taken antidepressants knows, there are side-effects and yes people should be aware before commencing. I welcome debate and discussion on the topic of antidepressants but with the nature of media these days, putting forward such a theory without scientific evidence is dangerous, damaging and harmful to a great many peoples health.
We all know that many people will miss the question mark at the end of their title, a lot will only skim it or take in only the top few lines and their memory will tell them that medication caused this tragedy. Stigma will continue, stigma will increase. People will find it harder to accept such help and lives will be damaged, some beyond repair.