What if someone told you that because you have a physical condition such as, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease you are no longer afforded the same constitutional rights as everyone else in the United States? You are not to be trusted, you are even feared. Everywhere you would go people would whisper about you and “your kind”. Because you have the physical ailment you are ostracized, mocked and suffer from extreme poverty, unable to work, unable to get treatment and suffer the stigma of not being trusted and being not only feared, but bullied. You are treated like you don’t have feelings and no one wants to touch you, ever. The first thought we have is that’s not fair I can’t help having this medical condition. But what if this medical condition is mental illness? That somehow changes everything. Automatically, the person is blamed when it is a mental illness, even when that person became mentally ill because of service to their country.
I have watched as the past 5 years funds for the mentally ill in my state (and throughout the entire country) have been slashed. Clients are no longer able to get the treatment they need. However, no one really cares as long as it is the clients that are dying, or being hospitalized, imprisoned, or homeless. But when a tragic violent act occurs every finger points to the mentally ill and the best advice NRA and other leaders give is let’s get more guns so we can kill more of them. Yes, some mentally ill people commit crimes, violent crimes. However, so do all types of people who aren’t mentally ill! For instance, how many people are killed a year by drunk drivers? In 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. But do we ostracize people that drink? Not that much.
There are many more acts of violence perpetrated by humans that use substances than for any other reason, including mental illness. Heather Stuart, states in her article Violence and mental illness: an overview, “The major determinant of violence continues to be socio-demographic and socio-economic factors such as being young, male, and of lower socio-economic status…it is far more likely that people with a serious mental illness will be the victims of violence.” (World Psychiatry 2:2-June 2003) Yet we hear the outcry since the Newtown tragedy that we must keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill – we must further stigmatize the mentally ill. I agree with the gun part – but keeping assault weapons from the mentally ill only won’t fix things. I am glad to hear some in Congress discussing the truth about our broken mental health system and the desperate need for funding and availability to programs, counseling, medication…but how I wish there were more talks of this than how dangerous this population supposedly is.
As a culture we all share the blame of making this nation a very violent place to live and raise our children. We don’t need more finger pointing, blaming, and fear that add more fear and prejudice, and creates more stigma. Instead let’s come up with some solutions make treatment easy to access instead of preventing people from getting treatment. As one Congressman said, “We need to make access to mental health care easier than access to a gun.” We need to come together as a people and realize that any of us given a certain set of circumstances are just steps away from being in the same place as some of the people we now point at and blame for all the evil around us…and what is evil? I think withholding treatment and then blaming the victim when things then go wrong is evil. What about you?
“Rantings of a Mad Woman” is a column written for CDA anonymously. Mad Woman is a Charismatic Evangelical Christian baby-boomer, white, educated woman who is also a social worker of 15 years and county director of a large social services company (NOTE: we point out the demographics to break any stereotypes that may usually be associated with these sorts of “rantings”). She is also a pastor and pastor’s wife who tells it like she sees it. Facebook.com/rantingsofamadwoman – @Ranting_Woman