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Don’t Blame Mental Illness for Violence:
It’s Not Accurate and It Hurts

The ongoing mass violence in this country somehow, over and over, leads politicians and the press to shine a spotlight on mental illness as if it is the cause.  It’s tempting to think that this makes sense, and it is even more tempting to be hopeful that funding will improve for services for people who need support and treatment.  None of this, however, is real.

The awful news is that the spotlight is focused on the wrong people.  We need to set the record straight.  Read the August 2019 document Mass Violence in America by the National Council’s Medical Director Institute if you are interested in the facts.

First, people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.  That’s a fact which again has been documented over and over.  So, your next door neighbor is more likely to be dangerous than the people served in your local mental health organization.  Second, by hanging the yoke of violence on people with mental illness, it is more likely that people will not reach out for help in fear they will be seen as dangerous.

While many are tying together mental health with violence, and there is mention of spending more on services, the reality is that the Affordable Care Act itself is under attack. Meanwhile, community-based services, which are intended to reach people who need support to help them live successfully in the community, continue to be underfunded.

So – it is time to focus the spotlight in the right place.  People need to recognize that mass violence is taking place because of anger, homophobia, and racism – not because the killers are mentally ill.  Let’s invest more money into services that are critically needed, and let’s encourage people to reach out and get the help they need.

 – Scott M. Bock, Founder and President/CEO, Riverside Community Care

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