On mental illness and violence 

In the wake of Parkland, the link between mental illness and violence has become a hot topic of conversation. There’s a real focus on the need for increased mental health treatment in the US. Over and over again I keep hearing about how we need to change how things are done in this country and maybe if we treat mental illness we can stop the next Parkland. I have two words to say to this: stop talking! 

I am mentally ill and I’m not referring to autism which I consider a condition not an illness. I suffer from severe depression episodes and live with chronic anxiety. I know what it’s like to have a mental illness spiral to a point of severity. I’ve lived with it. It’s why I’m being treated for it. 

Mental illness, to be blunt, has nothing to do with what we see in these shootings. Oh it might show up in the shooter’s background but issues like mine also show up in the backgrounds of men like Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, both victims of gun violence. Yes, I share a condition with the Sandy Hook shooter. I also share a condition with Anthony Hopkins and Darryl Hannah. See how the correlation doesn’t really matter. 

On the other hand an association with violent hate groups does show up constantly. Domestic violence is almost always present. These are two ideas completely removed from mental illness. They’re far better harbingers though. 

And we know this. I see so many arguing that the latter two matter. But they’ll still argue for mental health. I suppose the assumption is it does no harm to bring it up since there is a need for reform. But it’s doing tremendous harm to us. 

Here’s the reality of mental health and violence. We are far more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators because we are vulnerable. If we do harm someone it’s ourselves. Self harm and suicide are absolutely connected to mental health. We’re no more prone to hate than anybody else, maybe less because we identify with the marginalized. (Intersectionality is a fight we’re into!) 

And yes, the system is broken. It’s hopelessly broken. I can only afford meds and a monthly doctor visit. My insurance doesn’t cover therapy until I hit my deductible. I need far more to cope with my issues than I can get. But because I can’t get more, I’m not a threat to society. I’m just likely to have insomnia. 

This correlation absolutely has to stop. Just because you can’t comprehend it doesn’t make it an issue of mental health. It means you don’t get it. Quit scapegoating innocent people. Meaning well doesn’t absolve you. 

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