I’ve touched on the association made between gun violence and mental illness before. I didn’t think I’d write about it again. But until things change, I will likely continue to write about it.
Has anyone else wondered if we’ve been in the twilight zone lately? I saw a meme that said something along the lines of “What if the world actually did end in 2012, and we’ve all been in hell since then.” To be honest, I feel like it would explain a lot.
In some ways, I feel like people are more understanding and aware of mental health than ever. But then, I wake up to my daily “mental health” google alert email full of article titles like this:
- Trump Says Issue is Mental Health, Not Gun Control
- Trump: Texas shooting a ‘mental health’ problem, not a ‘guns situation’
- Trump blames Texas church shooting on mental health
- Trump: Texas mass shooting is about mental health, not guns
These articles continued for days. And this is absolutely not the first time nor is Trump the first person to link mass shootings to mental health. This is a manifestation of the stigma that has always existed. What makes me the most frustrated about seeing these titles (aside from the fact that no one seems to get that everyone has mental health, so they actually mean mental illness) is that I know there is a huge population who already thought this way. I abhor the fact that the leader of our nation is fueling the divisive fire, but he is not the cause.
Every day, articles on mental health and violence are sprinkled throughout my google alerts.
- Mental health versus gun control – are the two related?
- Opinion: Are mass shootings a ‘mental health problem’?
- Mental health can play a part in shootings, but shooter is still responsible
As the rate of mass shootings grows and grows in our country, so does the association with mental health.
I don’t understand it.
Nearly 100% of the time that I angrily disagree with someone’s political view or position, I try to understand what makes them believe that. I may not always keep it cool enough to ask them nicely (i.e. “HOW CAN YOU EVEN THINK THAT?”). But I try my hardest to remain calm and reflect on it privately. I have tried and tried and tried to understand why people blame gun violence on mental health, but I always hit a roadblock.
Many people can’t imagine what would make someone want to kill someone else, let alone multiple people, so they think that person must have a mental illness. To an extent, it’s understandable. I get it. You’re so appalled and confused and can’t even wrap your head around the idea that someone in their right mind could think about killing someone else. So it must be mental illness. But I’m here to tell you, it’s not.
Being homicidal is not a mental illness.
Just because you can’t comprehend how someone could do something, doesn’t mean they have a mental illness. As a general rule, we should all try to remember how diverse the human race is and your experience is not the only experience or the right experience. I truly cannot comprehend why someone would want to pierce their nipple, but that doesn’t mean they have a mental illness.
And if you can’t take logic as an answer, let’s take a look at the research. The association between gun violence and mental illness is unfounded.
Only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness.
In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population (Mental Health.gov).
This research has been done and out for years. When I first read it, I spouted it to everyone until I was blue in the face and fingers. But, the adamant touting of gun violence being mental health’s fault not only continued but grew and strengthened. I realized that it really doesn’t matter what the facts are or what is logical. People will continue to ignore the research studies and the facts. Unfortunately, many people are just not listening.
This is what makes me tired.
I often feel exhausted from this constant fight. I’m frustrated as all hell because I just want to get someone to open their mind and listen. I’m frightened and saddened that this topic comes up more and more because there is a mass shooting nearly every day. Sometimes, I feel like I’m screaming into a void. A part of me feels guilty for not saying anything after each mass shooting occurs. But not only does the frequency of these events exhaust my ability, I also just feel like I have nothing more to say. I’ve said it all. So many people, smarter than me, have said it all. The information is out there. People with mental illness are screaming “THIS IS NOT THE PROBLEM.” And yet, it falls on deaf ears.
This is how I felt after Vegas and again after the Texas Church shooting. I felt like giving up.
But then I talked to someone who gets it. Someone who heard what I was saying and who brought new points to my attention. And the fire in my gut reignited and instead of feeling hopeless, I felt motivated.
Everyone should understand this perspective. The words and the facts may already be out there, but until gun violence changes – it is worth repeating. And if you’re unwilling to hear it, I will keep repeating myself until you are.
So I repeat,
Being homicidal is not a mental illness.
Note: This is not to say that people with mental illness don’t have homicidal thoughts. There are people who are homicidal who do have a mental illness. But my point is that not all people who are homicidal have a mental illness.
Many people struggle with these uncontrollable thoughts, just like suicidal thoughts. It’s okay to have these thoughts, it’s what you do with the thoughts that matter. If you’re having homicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. You deserve help and to feel better. If you are in the US, text 741-741 for free, 24/7 crisis counseling.