Mental illness is normally a touchy subject. People refuse to acknowledge it exists and become uncomfortable when the topic is discussed. This creates a stigma and prejudice that act as barriers for people with mental health issues.
Unfortunately, the only time mental illnesses are actively brought to light is when a mass shooting occurs. This association only steers the conversation from gun control and instills a misplaced fear toward those with unhealthy mental conditions.
Let’s get one thing straight: equating mental illness with violence and mass shootings is like comparing apples and bananas. People with mental disorders are no more predisposed to violence and crime than those of the general population. Lumping together mentally ill people as hazardous is a dangerous stigmatization that needs to stop.
In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 63 percent of respondents thought mass shootings reflect problems with the mentally unstable proportion of the population, as opposed to America’s potentially inadequate gun laws, which only received 23 percent of the blame.
These results are alarming and just plain sickening. Those with mental health issues are not automatically predisposed to violence. Maybe we should acknowledge there’s a lack of dependable gun control laws rather than objectifying innocent people.
Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee, among other Republican Party candidates, claim the root of mass shootings and violence stem from mentally unstable people. They would rather treat people with mental health issues before implementing gun control laws.
While the former part of that solution sounds great, we should remember the treatments America has provided in the past for people with mental illnesses. History shows people with mental disorders were commonly locked away in asylums referred to as “snake pits.” In what world does that sound the slightest bit pleasant?
While former President John F. Kennedy tried to shut down those disturbing sanctuaries and replace them with actual therapeutic treatment centers, negligence was an ongoing evil. The mentally ill were often placed in nursing homes and even prison.
Each year about two million people with mental health problems have wound up behind bars rather than receiving proper treatment. Those numbers should not be that high—or even exist.
Prison is a dangerous environment for people prone to breakdowns due to the lack of proper resources. Police officers are in no way equipped therapists and often pose a threat to people living with mental health deficiencies.
The aftermath of a mass shooting is the absolute worst time to mention mental health because it is nothing more than a misnomer that only seeks to scapegoat law-abiding citizens. The overwhelming majority of people living with mental disorders actually do not engage in violence. Many criminal acts of violence occur at the hands of neuro-efficient people.
If anything, those with mental health disorders are more likely to fall victim to violence. Insisting on outlandishly identifying mentally ill people as perpetrators of violence does nothing but harm. And if society is going to further the oppression of those who may be neuro-deficient, then the least we could do is provide for them proper treatment.