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Why the religion of the Chattanooga shooter trumps his depression

Now we learn that Muhammad Abdulazeez, the gunman who fatally shot four Marines and a sailor at a recruiting office and naval reserve center in Chattanooga  last week, had depression and self-medicated with drugs an alcohol.shutterstock_297578456

Normally, this would spark the usual debate on whether depression can make someone homicidal. The media would tell us that yes, in very, very rare cases depression could cause homicidal thoughts but much more common are suicidal thughts.

And the media would tell us that some anti-depressants can make depression worse and that Abdulazeez had taken anti-depressants.

However, in this case the media is more focused on whether Abdulazeez was a Muslim terrorist whose alleged fanaticism was sparked by a lengthy trip to the Middle East last year. The media is throwing the word Isis into their coverage and voila! They’ve got a gazillion hits on social media.

I understand how the media works. I’ve been a reporter for over 30 years and watched the transition from us deciding what is newsworthy to allowing what gets the most clicks to grab headlines. It’s how it works today and Isis trumps mental illness.

I am relieved and ticked off about this: Relieved that we don’t have to be subjected to another event linking violence and mental illness; ticked off because the media is using our obsession with a tiny number of Muslims who cut people’s heads off as click bait; and mad that the possible link to ISIS or some other radical Muslim group is getting far more attention than the lives of the five men who were murdered.

What we have is another teachable moment wasted. The media could provide us with some information on why self-medicating with drugs and alcohol is so dangerous – something the parents of  Abdulazeez said their son was doing. Maybe the media could let an expert explain that alcohol is a depressant and that people with depression should probably avoid alcohol altogether.

That’s not going to happen. Unfortunately, another teachable moment is just a bullet away. Let’s see how the media handles it next time.

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Why the religion of the Chattanooga shooter trumps his depression

Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a journalist for 35 years. She is now an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post. In 2006, began writing a blog for PsychCentral called Depression on My Mind. Her latest blog, Addiction Matters, draws on her 19 years of sobriety and her coverage of the drug treatment industry in South Florida.

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APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2015). Why the religion of the Chattanooga shooter trumps his depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Jul 2015
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