Changing The Way We Talk About Mental Illness
Mental illness has become an acceptable stigma
In a new column on the Huffington Post, Brandon Marshall brings up a sensitive but intriguing topic. In recent years, we’ve been inundated with repeated talking points of mental illness and violence. Following the tragic shootings in Roseburg, Oregon, and Roanoke, Virginia, plenty of politicians, citizens, and media have pointed to mental illness as being to blame. But Marshall, a NFL wide receiver and co-founder of PROJECT 375, doesn’t accept those talking points. Why? Because he says that they aren’t true and that mental illness is being blamed as a way out of the discussion. The following are some of the talking points brought up by Marshall containing his views on the issue.
The commentary surrounding mass shootings has become all too familiar. A gunman bursts into a classroom, a movie theater, or a community center and starts shooting. Victims are rushed to the hospital, endless media coverage begins, politicians speak, and so on. It’s almost become routine. It is also routine that the actions are attributed to mental illness.
It doesn’t matter where these tragedies occur. We find ourselves asking how an individual can be driven to commit such a heinous act. We struggle to understand and then we seek to comfort ourselves with an obvious explanation: so we point to mental illness. But in most cases, mental illness isn’t to blame.
Between 2001-2010, there were nearly 120,000 gun-related homicides. And the facts surrounding these incidents are clear: mental illness is not the cause. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, only about 4 percent of violence in the United States can be attributed to people with a mental disorder. Mental illness is surprisingly common, one-fourth of U.S. adults have some sort of diagnosable mental illness, but violence related to those illnesses is not. In a recent study by the American Psychological Association, it was determined that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent. People with severe conditions, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are far more likely to be the victims rather than the perpetrators in cases of violent crime.
So why are we OK with pinning the blame on mental illness? We wouldn’t stand for racial profiling or religious stereotypes. So why do we accept it when it comes to people with mental illness?