OCD did not kill Jo Cox

For readers in other countries, you may not be aware that sadly, this week, one of our MP’s was killed as a result of being shot.

As often happens following these tragic events, there has been much speculation as to what happened and what drove one man to these actions. The reason I am writing this post is because much has been made in the media, of the fact, that the man who allegedly killed her also suffered from OCD.

This was one headline from our tabloid newspapers:

Man arrested after Jo Cox shooting is ‘obsessive compulsive who rubbed own skin with Brillo pads’ relative claims

It is a damaging headline. The link is immediate. He had a mental health condition; he must therefore have been a danger to the public and this is what drove him to murder a member of parliament.

OCD is a disorder, not a killer.
At its’ heart are intrusive thoughts that torture the sufferer inexplicably. There are often themes to the types of intrusive thoughts that occur and these vary wildly and uniquely from individual to individual. Themes can include topics such as contamination, sexually intrusive thoughts and yes even harm thoughts. But the emphasis has to be on the word intrusive. They are, what is otherwise known as, “ego dystonic”. Simply put, they are not congruent to the persons’ core values.

Why is this so important to emphasise? Because even if Jo Cox’s alleged killer did have OCD in the form of harm thoughts (and there is no evidence at this time to suggest that he did) this would absolutely not have led him to carry out such an act. In fact, quite the reverse. OCD sufferers, along with the agony of intrusive thoughts, will have compulsions they carry out to try and prevent the thoughts from occurring or becoming true. Anyone with OCD experiencing intrusive thoughts about killing someone are the least likely candidates to be researching murder methods and creating home-made ammunition.

Following Jo Cox’s awful murder, I have read articles and tweets that lament the fact that mental health provision in the UK is woefully inadequate. There is no doubt that mental health services are under-resourced (and some will be woefully inadequate) and this is definitely a discussion that needs to be had at a more suitable time; but to push this political agenda when discussing the murder of Jo Cox conflates that mental illness was to blame for her death.

Whilst much is made of his mental health problems, it draws attention away from other more pertinent discussions. It has been widely reported that this particular individual had contacts with far right, neo-nazi groups. It has also been mentioned that he was isolated and lonely. Of course, these are not the only factors and I am certainly not arguing that loneliness a murderer makes. But these are all relevant discussions to be had.
Prevent (who work to prevent terrorism) state in their policy guidance that “where there are feelings of isolation and loneliness, radicalisers can exploit this by providing a sense of purpose or feelings of belonging”.
Where are the discussions about marginalisation, social exclusion and that taboo topic, loneliness? Or maybe we need to be having an open discussion about politics, hate and fanaticism.

It is impossible to know what drives an individual to kill but let’s be clear; there are few mental health conditions that drive people to murder. The fact that this individual potentially had a diagnosis of OCD is about as relevant as a diagnosis of eczema.
OCD did not kill Jo Cox; an individual who is currently in police custody did.

4 thoughts on “OCD did not kill Jo Cox

  1. Thank you for writing this. I had no idea about Jo Cox, but I am sorry for your country’s loss. This article is brilliant, and I hope I remember to share it the next time someone tries to perpetuate the myth that mental illness causes violence.

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