We are deeply saddened by recent tragic events in El Paso and Ohio. These mass shootings are far too common and impact every corner of our nation. Every time we experience a tragedy like this, people with mental illness are drawn into the conversation. The reality is that most people with mental illness are not violent. In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violence.
Misinformation about mental health’s relationship to violent acts persists, leading to greater stigma for those with lived experience of mental illness. Misleading statements about mental health and violence have very real consequences. This contributes to the stigma that keeps many people from seeking the treatment they need.
Gun violence is a national public health crisis that impacts everyone. In order to address this crisis, this will require difficult discussions and evidenced based research about issues ranging from structural inequality, to substance use/abuse, to racism and misogyny, to firearm access, to media and social media. Blaming mass shootings on mental illness stops us from making progress.
One in five American adults experience a mental illness, but only 43% of them accessed care in the last year. There is a severe shortage of mental health professionals – more than 60 percent of all counties in the United States do not even have a single psychiatrist. People with mental health needs, including survivors, their friends and families, and first responders, are experiencing long waits for care, if they can get it at all.
Mental illness is certainly a problem in this country. However, hate is not a mental illness. Neither is murder. Our friends, colleagues and family members with mental illness deserve better than to be a scapegoat.