The Batman Killer

August 29, 2017
Anna Jankowska, LCPC

By Anna Jankowska, MA, CEAP, SAP, LCPC

Anna Jankowska is a mental health, addiction, and substance abuse counselor with over 17 years of experience and has specialized training and skill in working with individuals, groups and communities to improve mental health outcomes. NPI number: 1598843526

By CCI Team


Many of us are aware of the Colorado movie theater shooting that took place back in July 2012. As one of the worst shootings recorded, murderer James Holmes was later tested for a series of mental disorders. As a result, these diagnoses later lead to some believing he couldn’t be held responsible for his crime, on grounds of insanity. While many disagreed and argued that he should be found guilty, where do we draw the line?

In the article, The Batman Killer-a prescription for murder, author Shelley Jofre asked readers “did an SSRI antidepressant, prescribed by a doctor, played a part in the killings?” Interesting enough, Prof David Healy, a psycho-pharmacologist and a “long time campaigner on the potential dangerous side effects of anti-depressants” stated, “These killings would never have happened had it not been for the medication James Holmes had been prescribed.” Before meeting Holmes, Healy doubted the pills played any part in the shooting. However, by the end of the prison visit and trial, he was convinced the medication had every part to do with the killings.

Stephen Buckley, from mental health charity Mind, stated in the article: “Millions of people take SSRIs and other antidepressants and many find them useful in managing their mental health problems. Side effects from medication can be serious but it’s important to recognize that severe side effects are incredibly rare.” Furthermore, Buckley addressed the importance of consulting a mental health professional before one should stop taking medication, increase dosage, or fears the side effects have a strong negative impact. In agreement, Healy maintains that while antidepressants can be a lifesaver for some, there can be some negative impacts on others where it can even lead to more harm than the original prescribed problems.

The article further goes into the impact on the parents and their perspective on their son’s life, choices, and even an act of surprise when they learned antidepressants could have had an impact on their son’s actions. The parents, Arlene and Bob Holmes, were understandably quite impacted by this tragedy. From any other perspective, their family lived a good, simple life. Arlene says to the author, “We are an introverted family. We are not showy but we like having people around. We care about the larger picture in society and we are Christians, we go to church.” As most would understand, the couple have really struggled to understand how their own child could cause so much pain to others.

Overall, the majority of the article encompasses a feeling of surprise. Many of those closest to James would never have expected him to act out in the ways he did. Others, like District Attorney George Brauchler said “Holmes had a long standing hatred of mankind” and further stated Holmes was “evil”. What is most interesting in this article and a definite takeaway is when Holmes wrote about the initial effects of going on anti-depressants: “No effect when needed. First appearance of mania occurs, not good mania. Anxiety and fear disappears. No more fear, no more fear of failure. Fear of failure drove determination to improve, better and succeed in life. No fear of consequences.”

Something to think about: What should the court take into account when it comes to the rare side effects in extreme cases like this one? Is this grounds for insanity and therefor he should not be held accountable? What implications are there with this?

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