Richard Friedman

Richard A. Friedman, M.D., is a psychiatrist and professor at the Weill Cornell Medical College. He is also a behavioral science columnist for The New York Times.

Recent Articles

Media and Madness

For better and worse, the news media and entertainment industry shape public opinion about mental illness.

On April 16, 2007, a South Korean student named Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and then turned the gun on himself at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in the deadliest shooting rampage in American history. Within hours after the massacre, it was widely reported that the killer had been a loner with a history of bizarre behavior who frightened some of his teachers and fellow students. He apparently had a history of psychiatric illness and had once been hospitalized. This national tragedy was front-page news for weeks, igniting the usual debates about gun control, campus security, and even immigration. Nightly newscasts reported "no known motive" and focused on the gunman's anger, sense of isolation, and preoccupation with violent revenge. No one who read or saw the coverage would learn what a psychotic break looks like, nor that the vast majority of people with mental disorders are not violent. This kind of contextual information is conspicuously missing from major newspapers and...