Could the U.S. Mental Health System Have Prevented Elliot Rodger's Murderous Rampage?

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Dr. Tim Houchin, M.D. of 360 Mental Health Services reports that although Elliot Rodger’s murderous rampage demonstrates the U.S. mental health system has deeply seated flaws it is possible that no amount of psychotherapy or medication management would have given him what he needed most – a conscience.

Dr. Tim

Dr. Tim

Although one is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in America, when that individual, caught in the act, takes his own life he gives up his right to a jury trial

Elliot Rodger murdered six innocent people and maimed approximately a dozen others before killing himself, according to virtually every major news outlet. “Although one is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in America, when that individual, caught in the act, takes his own life he gives up his right to a jury trial,” said forensic psychiatrist Dr. Tim Houchin, M.D.

According to this article in Forbes, Rodger posted over a dozen videos on YouTube, each of which has now been taken down. In the article, Forbes writer Kashmir Hill described the videos as being full of “anger, self-loathing and self-pity.” Ms. Hill even reported that one viewer of Rodger’s YouTube videos, just days before the murders, commented on Reddit, “I bet we find out this guy is a serial killer.”

Dr. Houchin is one of a handful of U.S. physicians to be board certified in child and adolescent as well as adult forensic psychiatry. As such, he has evaluated dozens of murderers ranging in ages from teens to the elderly. When asked about Rodger’s YouTube videos Dr. Houchin stated, “Mr. Rodger published multiple disturbing [YouTube] videos in addition to his 140 page ‘manifesto’. These were clearly the actions of a vengeful, emotionally disturbed young man.”

So what exactly was Rodger's reported psychiatric diagnosis, did it play a significant role in the murders and, perhaps most importantly was this a preventable tragedy? Regarding diagnosis, this CNN article asserts that court documents from his parents’ divorce specify Rodger was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 7. Another CNN article cited Simon Astaire, a Rodger family friend, as claiming Elliot Rodger met with a psychotherapist “pretty much every day in high school.” The same article reported that Rodger was seeing two different therapists shortly before his murderous rampage.

If the CNN articles are accurate, Rodger had access to tremendous numbers of psychotherapy sessions; something Dr. Houchin indicated is typically only available to wealthy individuals due to the expense of such therapy. When asked if Rodger’s diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome may have played a role in the killings, Dr. Houchin responded, “Since I have not assessed Mr. Rodger I cannot say whether his purported diagnosis of Asperger’s is accurate. Having said this, if you’re starting with the wrong diagnosis you’re going down the wrong path.”

Although many questions remain, one is especially perplexing. With Rodger posting such disturbing videos on YouTube to the point that even laypersons were commenting he might be a serial killer, why were both of his therapists seemingly oblivious to the fact that he had been planning a mass murder for some 3 years? “This question,” said Dr. Houchin, “is complex and much more information will need to come to light before condemning the decisions of Rodger’s therapists”.

An expanded version of this article is available at

About Dr. Tim:
Dr. Tim Houchin is one of approximately 200 physicians in the United States to be triple board certified in psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry & forensic psychiatry. In addition to serving as an expert witness to various courts Dr. Tim is founder and president of 360 Mental Health Services, a comprehensive mental health diagnostic and treatment center based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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Timothy M. Houchin, M.D.
since: 03/2013
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Dr. Tim Houchin
since: 02/2013
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