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119 Introduction

Chapter Outline

A photograph shows several key members of the United States military accompanied by a crowd as they stand facing toward a wreath. All hold their right arms in salute or placed across their chests.

Figure PD.1 A wreath is laid in memoriam to victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting. (credit: modification of work by D. Myles Cullen, US Department of Defense)

On Monday, September 16, 2013, a gunman killed 12 people as the workday began at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, DC. Aaron Alexis, 34, had a troubled history: he thought that he was being controlled by radio waves. He called the police to complain about voices in his head and being under surveillance by “shadowy forces” (Thomas, Levine, Date, & Cloherty, 2013). While Alexis’s actions cannot be excused, it is clear that he had some form of mental illness. Mental illness is not necessarily a cause of violence; it is far more likely that the mentally ill will be victims rather than perpetrators of violence (Stuart, 2003). If, however, Alexis had received the help he needed, this tragedy might have been averted.

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