Summary List Placement
Anthony Beckett apologized to his pregnant girlfriend as he tried to force her head underwater.
“I need to do this, I need to do this,” the soon-to-be father of three from Middlesbrough, England, told his stunned partner who was taking a bath, according to court documents seen by Insider.
Beckett, who had become obsessed with the QAnon conspiracy theory, believed that Chinese government officials would abduct his family and that a “great reset” would take place on the day of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
So two days before the inauguration, on January 18, while his pregnant girlfriend was taking a bath after putting the kids to bed, Beckett took a hammer and hit her on the head four times before strangling and attempting to drown her, court documents show.
Two months ago, he was sentenced to 10 years in jail for attempted murder. His lawyer, Jonathan Walker, claimed in court that his client had a history of mental health issues.
The story is only one example of a series of violent incidents linked to believers of the QAnon conspiracy. The most recent saw a father in California killing his two children with a speargun because he thought they would “grow into monsters.”
Almost 80 people have committed crimes motivated by QAnon
A report by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism published in May 2021 found that almost 80 people have committed crimes seemingly motivated by the baseless conspiracy theory. (This number only represents the crimes committed in the United States and does not include international cases such as Beckett’s.)
More than half of those crimes were committed by QAnon believers who stormed the Capitol on January 6. But the others are more sinister, and many involve people with previous mental health conditions.
In March 2019, Anthony Comello, a 24-year-old conspiracy theorist from Staten Island allegedly gunned down a Gambino crime boss because he believed he was a prominent member of the deep state. The 24-year-old was found mentally unfit to stand trial in June 2020.
A few months later, Liliana Carrillo, a mother-of-three from Los Angeles, admitted to drowning her children to save them from what she said would be a lifetime of sexual abuse.
In her police interview, Carrillo, who followed QAnon, said she dealt with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and post-partum depression, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The complex relationship between disinformation and mental health
These stories show there is a complex link between Qanon and mental illness.
In February, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism published a report revealing that more than two-thirds of the 31 QAnon adherents who’d been charged with a crime before or after the January 6 insurrection, experienced severe mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
Social and clinical psychologist Dr. Sophia Moskalenko, the co-author of “Pastels and Pedophiles: Inside the Mind of QAnon,” has reviewed court documents, media interviews, and social media posts related to QAnon believers charged with committing a crime.
In her research, she also found that many of those who’d committed a crime had a history of mental illness.
Intensified feelings of uncertainty, fear, and isolation brought out by the coronavirus pandemic might have pushed these people closer toward embracing QAnon’s views.
“We know from research that putting people in situations where they have little control when they’re feeling anxious and fearful makes them more likely to embrace conspiracy theories,” Moskalenko told Insider. “Add to that the algorithms on social media that give people answers to all the questions that the pandemic and the political situation in the US brought about.”
“Qanon is unique in the sense it’s like an Amazon store for conspiracy theories that can get anything you want. It appeals to so many different kinds of vulnerable people.”
Not all QAnon followers have a mental health condition
But Sara Gorman, a public health expert, and psychologist stresses that this does not mean that all QAnon followers have mental health issues.
“When it comes to the general population of people who believe in QAnon theories, the vast majority of them are not going to be mentally ill,” she told Insider. “But it is possible that the believers who are more extreme may have mental health issues at higher rates.”
“QAnon is the kind of conspiracy theory that draws in people who are very socially isolated, or feel somehow like they have lost control of their lives,” she continued. “So I do think those particular more vulnerable people have a major risk factor for mental health issues because part of what they’re doing with conspiracy theories is trying to gain control of their environment and clean everything around them in some way. “