I’m starting to see some people armchair diagnosing and amateur discussions about whether or not the young man who shot Gabrielle Giffords is “competent” or “sane” and it’s really making me uncomfortable so I would like to share this snippet from a blog post that I think it important to remember when things like this are all over the media.
As a society, we marginalize the mentally ill eagerly, without compunction. They’re scary, they’re dangerous, they’re just not like us, they need to be controlled, for their good and ours, because they are a threat to orderly society.
Except that we aren’t. People who are mentally ill are no more likely to commit violence than people who aren’t. The only factor which increased the risk of violence is substance abuse — a factor which also increases risk of violence in the non-mentally ill. And much stronger predictors of violence include being male, young, low income, recently unemployed and recently divorced or separated. For what stigma they still may face, do we assign anywhere near the same amount of “danger” to divorcees and the unemployed as we do to the mentally ill? And yet….
And yet: people with mental illness are twice as likely to be the victims of violence. Does anyone even pretend to pay attention to that?
And why might that be? Well, when people associate mentall illness with violence, they are
“significantly more likely to report attitudes related to fear and dangerousness, to endorse services that coerced persons into treatment and treated them in segregated areas, to avoid persons with mental illness in social situations, and to be reluctant to help persons with mental illness.”
Huh. Imagine that. People who are told that already-marginalized people are a danger to them and all that they hold dear will begin to have ideas that those marginalized folk need to be controlled, avoided, medicated, segregated…
And this attitude, this automatic assumption that mental illness makes a person violent and dangerous, is so pervasive across our society, and so deeply-held — and yet so wrong.
So I’d like everyone to please take this into consideration when reblogging or writing any information about Mr Loughner and his competency hearing and mental state. Presenting people with mental illnesses as inherently violent, or allowing such implications to go unchallenged, is a direct part of the situation outlined above - that violence perpetuated AGAINST mentally ill people is, in fact, significantly more common than violence against “sane” people.
It’s an idea and an attitude that harms people. It harms me. So please, try to be considerate and responsible when you talk about this kind of thing. =/