Let's not re-stigmatize mental health because of gun violence

Let’s not re-stigmatize mental health because of gun violence

Stigmatizing mental illness by using it as a justification for gun violence is not just misinformation, it regularly erodes the progress that has been made in public discourse on the subject. Continuing this discussion is imperative for the future of mental health awareness, but only by doing so with the right information.

Gun violence has increased in the United States in almost every way imaginable. In 2020 alone, according to the CDC, more than 45,000 Americans died as a result of gun violence — more than at any time in history. At the same time, conversations about mental illness and mental health have become more mainstream and accepted, ushering in an era where people feel these topics have become more normalized and less taboo. Except, however, in cases where these two public health issues overlap. In an effort to explain – or scapegoat, depending on political or personal motivations – the threats of gun violence plaguing society, the issue often finds itself at the center of a cause-and-effect conversation. Stigmatizing mental illness by immediately using it as a justification for gun violence is not only misinformation, but it steadily erodes the progress that has been made in public conversations about mental health.

The United States has a similar frequency and incidence of mental illness as other countries, but maintains a higher rate of gun violence, which shows that there is no correlation between the two. Moreover, according to the John Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, only 4% of interpersonal violence is attributable to this cause. Conversations to the contrary fueled prejudice and fear about mental illness – the result of which contributed to people avoiding mental health services.

Rochelle Rothwell

Suicide – the act of killing oneself – is far more likely than that of a person living with mental health issues taking another person’s life. In fact, a history of violent tendencies is a much more accurate and obvious predictor of the likelihood of armed violence.

Community Violence Intervention (CVI) programs focus on reducing gun violence by building relationships with the people at the center of the problem – both perpetrators and victims. Gun violence tends to occur more frequently in historically underfunded areas of cities; the same demographic groups that suffer from a marked lack of mental health resources. Although the two are clearly linked, a shift in the conversation must occur in order to preserve the progress being made on the subject of mental health in our societies, rather than mislabeling and misunderstanding an issue that affects one in five Americans. . CVI programs are another avenue used to deal with these circumstances, so much so that the Treasury Department has indicated that the $350 billion in state and local funding from the U.S. bailout can be used to invest in rescue interventions. evidence-based community violence.

Tremendous progress has been made in the public sphere as a result of very candid discussions on the subject of mental health over the past few years. However, denigrating mental illness by using it as a justification for gun violence has certainly had the opposite effect. Through candid and ongoing discussions, appropriate information and perspectives can once again be understood and we, as a community, can continue to improve the future of mental health awareness, rather than stigmatizing it at new.

Rochelle Rothwell is President and CEO of Rose Hill Center, a residential psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation facility based in Holly, Michigan, providing a full range of services for adults with serious mental illness. For more information visit www.rosehillcenter.org

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