Emotional Wellbeing

Mental Health


Mandy Kloppers

Mental health and the increase in random violent attacks

In recent months there have been numerous random violent attacks on the public. Mental health and violence have often been connected when an individual randomly attacks members of the public. Unfortunately, the occurrence of random violent attacks is on the increase and will not stop until governments place far more importance on the provision of mental health services.

Just recently, there was a random attack on children in Annecy, France, and yesterday three people were killed in Nottingham. It is impossible to predict where or when these attacks will take place but it is possible to foresee the rising issues in mental health problems. Mental health is continuously being challenged by the stressful world that we live in. The poor provision of adequate mental health services means that many individuals have to find ways of coping alone. Add to this combination, childhood trauma or existing vulnerabilities and you have a recipe for disaster.

Mental health is less of a priority than physical health

Considering mental health as less important than physical health is a grave error. The two are intrinsically interwoven and one cannot sustain itself without the other. Despite this, inadequate funding is provided for mental health services. Although mental health is definitely being spoken about more often, the fact is that there is still not enough being done to support vulnerable people. When adequate provision is made in an effort to maintain good mental health, I believe we will see a reduction in random violent attacks.

The Covid pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues

Since the covid pandemic, I have noticed restlessness. People are quick to anger, road rage is pervasive and many people feel they have even less control of their lives than they used to. When we feel we have lost control and that nothing we do improves our situation, it can lead to a sense of ‘ learned helplessness’. When someone gets to this stage, they feel they have nothing to lose. A person can be quick to anger and tolerance disappears.

Even though there are helpline numbers, I have found that they are inundated and as a result many people can’t even get through when they most need the help. Mental health workers are burned out and the situation does not appear to be improving. So what do we do in a world where stress is unavoidable, stress impacts mental health and poor mental health can lead to regrettable acts of violence?

It’s a ‘dog eat dog’ world out there

Unless you are fortunate enough to have supportive friends and family, it can be almost impossible to find kindness and a ‘soft place to land’. Protective factors that guard against mental illness are few and far between. Communities have broken down and the stigma of mental health and not coping is still frowned upon by many. In addition, many people don’t realise how close they are to breaking point.

If you find that you’re quick to anger, show less tolerance and find little Joy in The Small Things, it might be time to look inward and do a quick self-assessment. We live in a world where there is very little balance and many people push themselves far beyond what would be considered healthy.

What needs to change to protect mental health

General practitioners should have a permanent mental health professional on duty. Vulnerable individuals would be seen sooner and screening would be far superior. Individuals who end up committing violent acts are frequently in the system on some level prior to committing violent acts. It is rare for a violent individual to appear out of the blue there’s no prior record of vulnerability.

More funding needs to be channeled toward mental health services and 24-hour crisis lines need to be fully operative. It is truly astonishing that even these 24-hour crisis Lines can be so overwhelmed that you cannot get through at the crucial moment when you need it most.

Of course, we cannot anticipate every problem that will arise but if we put in place a robust system where people can get help, we may just prevent some future violent attacks.

During my career as a therapist over the last two decades, I have witnessed a worrying change. More unhappiness, less support, and more people struggling on their own to handle stress and the inability to cope. We all have a breaking point and that point is looming ever closer for vast numbers of people. Individuals who violently attack strangers aren’t necessarily bad people but they are people who have lost perspective and who have lost their ability to cope with their circumstances.

When we understand the ‘why’ we will be better placed to prevent and manage random violent attacks. We will also hopefully be a more compassionate, kind world.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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