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Mental health is not the culprit for mass shooting

By Dr. Beth E. Williams • Feb 21, 2018 at 11:00 AM

How often have we heard the conclusion that mental health is the reason for yet another mass shooting?

This is a disturbing and particularly alarming conclusion. The fact is, our society does not embrace and support those suffering from this chronic and debilitating disease. Families struggle with getting people engaged in treatment. Mental illness carries with it a stigma and stereotype linking mental illness and violence, which drives people away from getting the help they need.

An article in the American Journal of Public Health by Jonathan M. Metzl and Kenneth MacLeish stated “Notions of mental illness that emerge in relation to mass shootings frequently reflect larger cultural issues that become obscured when mass shootings come to stand in for all gun crime and when ‘mentally ill’ ceases to be a medical designation and becomes a sign of violent threat.”

Mental illness is often misunderstood which makes it an easy target to blame. The fact is it is extremely unlikely for people with mental illness to carry out violent acts. Often those suffering from mental illness are not criminals but unfortunately more likely targets of violence and are more prone to being taken advantage of. Mass shootings are often blamed on mental health and gun control, but there are myriad reasons someone commits this type of crime.

There are often signs when someone becomes unstable. Some signs include: Individuals who are isolated, who suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, and who blame others for everything. If you notice something in your family, workplace, or on social media, how do you say something and to whom do you talk? Be an advocate to help that person seek help, do whatever you can. If a person is threatening to harm themselves, call 911. The Huron County Board of Mental Health and Addiction Services funds the crisis hotline. For confidential access 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week: Call 800-826-1306 or text ‘4hope’ to 741741.

 

Dr. Beth B. Williams is executive director of the Huron County Board of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

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