America has an epidemic of mass shootings. A just as concerning misconception of mental illness has followed this disturbing trend. There have been instances of those suffering, or thought to be suffering, from mental illness committing violent gun-related acts, such as the recent mass shooter Nikolas Cruz from Parkland, Florida. It is easy to think that only someone who is ‘mentally disturbed’ could commit such an act like a mass shooting, but is categorizing every person who suffers from a mental illness as having the ability to commit a terrible crime really fair?
VALLEY found that many professionals who study mental health say that society’s preconceived notion of people with mental illness being the cause of gun violence is false.
Joel Miller, M.S Ed., is the CEO and Executive Director of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, otherwise known as AMHCA. Miller offered some professional insight into mental health and gun-violence after the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017. He said that most people with mental illness are not violent and are often times the victims of violence.
Another professional publication, “Mass Shootings and Mental Illness,” authored by James L. Knoll IV, M.D. and George D. Annas, M.D. M.P.H. states that, “Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than one percent of all yearly gun-related homicides.”
Less than one percent!
All the facts are here for the taking, and it’s time for America to roll with it.
Think twice about assumptions regarding those who suffer from mental illness. Remember that they are suffering and that it could be anyone around you. Your mother, father, brother, sister, best friend, teacher, etc. Mental illness does not discriminate, so America shouldn’t either.
Instead of being afraid of what is misunderstood, start making the effort to understand. Let someone know that you are there … be a helping hand or lend an ear to listen. Be the one to start the conversation.
If someone, mentally ill or not, is showing violent tendencies, say something. A person suffering from a mental illness is not the only person susceptible to committing violent crimes. It can be anyone. See something, say something. Stand up.
America wants to have conversations to end mass shootings, but it should be with all the facts in mind.
If you or someone you may know is suffering from a mental illness, these are just some of the many resources available to you: