It’s been reported that James Eagan Holmes, more infamously known as the movie-theatre gunman who killed 12 people during a midnight showing of Batman in Aurora, Colorado, sent a text to a classmate asking whether she knew what “dysphoric mania” was. (It is a bipolar condition that in its extremes, can include mania and paranoid delusions.) Did he have it?
Similarly we wonder whether a near-death accident in childhood, one that was marked by severe head trauma, affected Jeffrey T. Johnson, a.k.a. the Empire State Building gunman, so deeply that it influenced his decision to kill his former boss on his way into the office. Is that possible?
So often we focus on the mental conditions and environmental stressors that may have influenced the perpetrators of horrendous violence. Likewise, in the immediate aftermath of a horrific event—be it violence, an accident, or a devastating natural disaster—the media reports on the nightmares, sleeplessness, anxiety, and other classic sequelae experienced by the trauma survivors. Too rarely, though, do we explore the mental and emotional recovery of trauma survivors, and that of the family, friends, and colleagues who were affected by a victim’s death or lifelong disabilities.