To ignore the biological basis of violence is to squander the opportunity to prevent violence. By not understanding and working to improve the health of the brain, we are risking lives–those of our friends, families, neighbors, and ourselves. If we continue to ignore the powerful science of the brain, then we must accept the blame for future violence. Our humanity gives us the gift, and responsibility, of understanding right from wrong. We must each use our capacity for empathy, self-mastery, and self-awareness to build healthier communities. Social behavior and biology are two sides of the same coin: social influences can rewire a brain for better or worse and the wiring of the brain determines how we behave in our environment. Nature and nurture always play a dual, nearly equal role in what we think and do.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken [adults]” – Frederick Douglas
It’s never too early! Focusing on the first few years of a child’s life, when the brain is still developing, is one of the best investments the public can make in preventing future violence. Some of these preventive efforts can begin even before the child is born.
It’s never too late! Even an adult’s brain can be helped with mild treatment and support.
MYTHS & FACTS about brain health and illness…
Myth: Biology is destiny. Our genes define us and our fate and we have no control.
Fact: Our personality and behavior are influenced by both our biology (our genetic makeup or our “nature”) AND our environment (how we are “nurtured,” our circumstances). Both our nature and our nurture play a role in our everyday lives, but it’s not the whole story–we still can control our choices in life.
Myth: Brain health problems can’t be cured.
Fact: Every day, new technologies and innovations are developed to understand the brain a bit more. The ability to study the brain and determine why it may not work properly is becoming rapidly more accessible. As we learn more and expand our ability to understand the brain, we can develop medicine and therapies to treat–and even cure–brain health problems.
Myth: People with brain illness should be isolated and ignored because we do not understand why they behave the way they do.
Fact: Isolating and ignoring people with any type of illness will only make the problem worse–and we will all suffer as a result.
Myth: People who have brain illnesses are violent.
Fact: Most people with brain illness are not violent or a danger to the public. However, brain illness can contribute to impaired judgment and an increased potential for violent behavior. To ignore the link between brain illness and violence can result in more harm than good – by not being aware of the danger and treating aggression or violent behavior, in addition to the brain illness, lives might be lost that could have been saved.
Myth: There is usually one problem in the brain when someone suffers from brain illness that leads to violence.
Fact: Violence is a jigsaw puzzle made up of lots of different pieces, both social and biological (Behavioral and biochemical – “tell me about your mother” and “pee in this cup”). We need to piece them together to understand and prevent future violence, to learn how the social pieces interact with the biological pieces to shape violent behavior. We need to research how the pieces fit together. Once we understand, we can then create effective interventions and therapies to help overcome the causes of violent behavior.