Mental Illness and Random Shootings: 3 Points from an Evolved Point of View

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries  

In 2012, my world consisted of therapy appointments, medicine adjustments, adjusting to a new worldview, weekly attendance to a support group, much fear, and a seedling of an idea.

Always The Fight Ministries had no name or structure. One or two speaking opportunities and writing my first book were early accomplishments.  Still in recovery from a severe major depressive episode and suicide attempt in early 2011, my thoughts were a constant battle between dreams for the future and ongoing hopelessness.

Since the world of mental health and recovery advocacy was new to me, some unfortunate stigma made its way into my writing and sharing.  It is no surprise because in America illogical and not-so-knowledgeable assumptions about mental illness and those who live with it prevail. What I understood back then and what I know now are not always the same. 

A few months ago I set a goal of re-editing over 400 blog posts on this website, purposefully bringing information up-to-date. In the process I ran across several in need of change.  One of them, titled Mental Illness and Random Shootings, was written in 2012.  Without intending harm, in ignorance I implied the cause of mass murders is mental illness. That is wrong.

Words like violent, crazy, and scary are often assigned to people in general who live with mental illness. These are unfair and unduly harmful. Here’s why:

(1)  The man you see on the street corner who is talking to himself and batting at imaginary nuisances may be suffering from a type of schizophrenic disorder.  The friendly woman sitting next to you at work may be living with the same condition.  Fact is,  both the man and the woman are highly unlikely to harm you. Rather, they are”10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population”*  Of all the frightening news stories and skewed banter, only 3%-5%* of violent acts are committed by persons living with serious mental illness.

(2) In response to mass shootings, media coverage most often offers only two options: either the perpetrator was mildly or dangerously mentally ill.  Mental health research is not aligned with that type of black and white analysis. 

Mass shootings “represent anecdotal distortions of … the actions of “mentally ill” people as an aggregate group.”**  For example, did you know the national average of those without a diagnosis of mental illness who commit crimes involving guns is higher than for those who are?**

(3)  Alcohol and drug use “increase the risk of violent crime by as much as 7-fold”, even among persons with no history of mental illness.***  In light of the growing mob mentality toward people who live with mental illness, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) concurs with the idea we are better off looking at real risk factors, the chief of which are being a young male or a substance abuser (alcohol or drugs).  The small minority of people with mental illness who commit acts of violence are those with untreated psychosis.  

These years later,  Always The Fight Ministries is a functioning and focused entity. It has blossomed with experience and is evolving as all good ideas do.  Like the seed of an idea can grow,  so can our understanding. I hope you will join me on this trek to know and promote the facts.   

Today’s Helpful Word

Isaiah 61: 11   A promise!

“For as the earth puts out buds, and as the garden gives growth to the seeds which are planted in it, so the Lord will make righteousness and praise to be flowering before all the nations.”

**********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*Mental Health Myths and Facts. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, MentalHealth.gov. Retrieved on July 5, 2017 from  https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/myths-facts/index.html

**Jonathan M. Metzl, MD, PhDcorresponding author and Kenneth T. MacLeish, PhD .   Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms. American Journal of Public Health. 2015 February; 105(2): 240–249. Published online 2015, Retrieved on July 5, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4318286/

*** Marvin S. Swartz, M.D., Jeffrey W. Swanson, Ph.D., Virginia A. Hiday, Ph.D.,
Randy Borum, Psy.D., H. Ryan Wagner, Ph.D., and Barbara J. Burns, Ph.D.   Violence and Severe Mental Illness: The Effects of Substance Abuse and Nonadherence to Medication. Journal of Psychiatry 155:2, February 1998. Retrieved on July 6, 2017 from 
 http://www.antoniocasella.eu/archipsy/Swartz_1998.pdf

Additional information retrieved July 5, 2017 from http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/key-issues/violence/3633-risk-factors-for-violence-in-serious-mental-illness

seedling pic by LUSI on rgbstock.com, flowers by MACIEKLEW on rgbstock.com

 

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