I give you this fact which should be obvious: No one ever does anything that to them, at least in that moment, does not make some sort of sense. We may often have a WTF moment afterward, but that is hindsight talking. So, what are we doing when we say an action is “senseless?” We are saying we need not consider how that action made sense to that person when they did it. We are saying we need not think about how they came to think and feel that way. Most importantly, we are avoiding looking into the mirror they hold up to us. It may be about our politics, our theologies, our educational systems or health care systems, our justice systems, or our economic system, whatever, but the mirror is there, always. Yes, the person may have some mental illness, and that allows us to say he couldn’t possibly be making sense, could not have any message for us other than that he did not get the treatment he needed. But even if the action was driven by hallucinations and/or delusions, even those are saying something and take forms and contents consistent with culture and society. Calling the act “senseless” allows us to dismiss the idea that it could have any deeper meaning, but is, “Just another nut job with a gun, how sad.” Then we do not have to see the roots of the hate, or fear, or rage, or disappointment, or confusion that brought them to that place. Then we can turn away from the mirror. Someone else will come all too soon to hold it up to us again, and again, and again, and again,….and again.
Just to be very clear about reality, the vast majority of people dealing with mental illness are not killing, raping, or blowing things up. They are doing their best to live as well as they can with their conditions and manage their lives. Many are active in forums like this sharing their experience and offering support and encouragement to others. Many are active in their communities in similar ways and advocating for the needs of their peers. They are not lashing out. They are reaching out. Many others are just quietly getting through from day to day in spite of their mood swings, anxieties, intrusive thoughts, voices, or whatever the manifestations of their conditions may be. That is the reality of mental illness.