In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, the nation is frenzied about this heinous slaughter of innocents. Everyone is demanding answers. “More gun control!” “More background checks!” “More screening of the mentally ill!” If the media’s response is a correct indication, the nation is hysterically hyperventilating and not thoughtfully reflecting. For our fellow citizens with psychiatric disabilities, this poses a serious danger. Overwrought, careless, even reckless presumptions of an inexorable link between mental illness and violence only further stigmatizes an already unfairly marginalized minority in need.
Here’s an example. Earlier this week I was asked to sign an online petition on Change.org initiated by a Mr. Jason Eckker of Illinois. The intent was good: he wanted people to petition for more mental health care funding in light of the tragedy. As the parent of a loved one with a psychiatric disability, at first I naturally wanted to join. But a closer reading stopped me cold. I could not sign. Mr. Eccker’s introduction reflexively stated a stinging, stigmatizing untruth about people with psychiatric disabilities:
“However, almost all of the people who commit such a violent and senseless crime do so because of untreated mental illness.”
No, no, Mr. Ecckers, a thousand times no!…
To read this important PsychOdyssey editorial in its entirety, click here.
To see all of PsychOdyssey’s op-eds, click here.