Stop Your Stigmatization And Face The Facts

By Ezra Saville   |   Our Voice Contributor

Often, I hear media profess that white male shooters are “lone wolves” with “unidentified mental illnesses”. It’s easy to push off horrific events onto the mentally ill, because we have put a bubble around ourselves. It is commonly assumed, “Only crazy people hurt people.”  No one wants to really face the fact that privilege, patriarchy, and our lack of gun control is what contributes to so many mass shootings carried out by men. However, my focus today is to break-down why the use of mental illness as a scapegoat is an utterly false narrative that avoids discovery of the real underlying cause.

As reported by the American Psychiatric Association in 2016, only 3% of violent crimes are committed by those professionally diagnosed with a mental illness. “Gun restriction laws focusing on people with mental illness perpetuate the myth that mental illness leads to violence, as well as the misconception that gun violence and mental illness are strongly linked. Stigma represents a major barrier to access and treatment of mental illness, which in turn increases the public health burden.”

If we put all our blame on the mentally ill, we are actually blaming most victims of abuse and assault for the biggest tragedies in our country.

People with manic depression, schizophrenia, and other more serious mental illnesses are often high-functioning members of society, instead of “the deranged” that the media tries to portray. We need to start changing the ways we portray and view mentally ill people. People who commit these violent crimes are labeled as “psychos”, “maniacs”, “crazies” – and it has only hurt both the understanding of why these violent crimes continue to occur, and the citizens who have mental illness, yet never commit such crimes.

It is proven that doctors don’t take mental illness as seriously as they consider physical illnesses. This can be attributed to stigmatization. “If people with mental illness are seen as ‘bad’, why don’t we just lock them up instead of treating them?” That is the opinion people are likely going to adopt as we continue blaming tragedies and violence on the mentally ill. It also potentially creates angry citizens who think the mentally ill are responsible, possibly causing them to turn against peaceful people in everyday life who may actually be mentally ill. I have personally heard a student in my classroom state, “Mentally ill freaks need to be put in jail because they just sit on welfare”.

I am friends with several people who have mental illnesses – I, myself, am one of those people. Others have to take a moment and see why they blame people like us.

They can then realize it’s because it is easy to blame the unknown… the minority. Especially because in reality, we don’t talk of our citizens who suffer from trauma and mental illness. And among my friends and myself, we all share the same consensus: even if you have a mental illness, you will always be held accountable for your actions. So, it is unfair to think that the mental health community excuses those who have a mental illness from crimes or wrongs they commit.

Next time you hear people make a joke about psychos, or blame shootings and violent crimes on mentally ill people, say something to them. If we start to point out that mental illness isn’t the cause of evil, we can understand what the real underlying cause is for these horrific mass shootings.

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