The Truth About Mental Illness and Violence

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. – @Ranting_Woman


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  1. Jo Mohr January 16, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    I think the author is comparing 2 different things. A person with diabetes or heart disease isn’t going to shoot someone and then use their disease as an excuse. Do we ostracize people who drink? I do if they choose to drink and drive and I don’t wait until they cause an accident. No one should debate that people with mental illness are often victimized. That doesn’t mean I want them to have a gun. For example, someone who is paranoid and hearing voices should not have a gun. In fact, people who are victimized may be more likely to try to use a gun to stop the victimization and make themselves feel stronger. I agree that people with mental illness need help and not less funding. Maybe we could send less of our tax money overseas and use it here instead.

    • mad woman January 25, 2013 at 1:21 am

      I’m sorry but if a person has real mental illness they are not using it as an excuse. That sounds like they have bad behavior and want to say they are mentally ill in order to get by with bad behavior. The whole concept was written to address the problem of the NRA wanting to blanket all mentally ill people as the enemy. That is just not true. People i have worked with (as clients) have purchased guns and used them not on other people but in suicide. That is what usually happens when someone is extremely paranoid. The NRA want to lay all the blame at the feet of mentally ill people. That is a cop out. Assault weapons should not be available to anyone mentally ill or “normal people”. it’s the normal people that commit the most crime and hurt the most people.

  2. Sherry Tucker January 23, 2013 at 1:55 am

    I have bipolar disorder. I HATE the stigma that goes along with this disease or any other mental illness. And I know that violence among the mentally ill is very low. Having said that, however, I’ll be totally honest. When I am sick, I have no business owning or having access to a gun. That is part of my disease that I accept. Just as a person with diabetes knows they shouldn’t be driving a car when they are hypoglycemic, I realize that it is not in anyone’s best interest for me to operate a weapon when I am ill. So, while I do not like the stigma at all, and feel that much more money needs to go toward mental healthcare, I am not opposed to putting restrictions on gun ownership for the mentally ill.

  3. Alice Barton April 15, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Question is would a person give a gun to a person who is mentally ill? answer would be, NO.. Yet, in the world, The mentally ill are in society and, so is the ones who are just as I call them criminals. Criminals have a mind of no remorse, there is nothing they would not do. where as, a mental ill person has a conscience, many do not know what they are doing. Society stamps labels on ones with mental disorders , as that is there way of dealing with it. Society does not care in lives,most care for money. dollars, as politics does too. There way of saving a few dollars , cut funding to it. They fuss they want change.yet, the same philosophy comes to their minds ,toss them in mental institutes.
    You can give a person who hunts a gun. It is to used for food, that is correct way.yet, the bad side is, children get killed.if they take guns away, still be crime with other ways, such as knives.etc. shame that killing, violence is what so many do. when you use guns like they need be used, society is not hurt ,same as mental patients when u educate and see those who need help,, have help available for them and teach them not stick a stigma on them. as far as criminals go drug dealers etc, they will always be criminals and evil lurches in them. it is shame we cannot tell which is which.

  4. Neurotic Nelly May 25, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Diabetes and heart disease is exactly the same thing as mental illness. Mental illness is not an excuse for behavior. It is an actual illness in your brain. A problem with your brain chemistry just as diabetes is a problem with your insulin chemistry. I get so frustrated when I hear comments about how we use it as an excuse to commit crimes. I have severe to moderate OCD and I have had it since childhood. You , mam, may not realize it but that comment is is exactly the stigma we face everyday. You group us up like we are all violent and then make excuses. I have never been violent. I have never even been in a fight. You wouldn’t say all blondes have bad attitudes would you? No, you would not because that would be judging them all as a group and not individually. It would also be a discriminatory comment. Everyday we are met with images and negative comments about how we are worthless and less important that normal healthy people. We are publicly shamed by the media and by those that are ignorant on what mental illness really is. It is always easier to point fingers when things go wrong. It is easier for the NRA to blame those suffering from mental illness rather than look at their polices. Here’s a news flash most murders are not caused by mentally ill people. Most are because of greed, jealousy, or anger. In fact mental illness suffers are far more likely to kill themselves rather than hurt others. Statistics say that globally 17 people that suffer from mental illness commit suicide every ten minutes. 22 veterans commit suicide each day due to mental illness. Why don’t they get the help they so dearly need you ask? Because of comments like the one yourself. Be ause of the stigma that we are bad, scary, weak, unworthy, and dangerous. Stigma is real and kills. Fearing talking about mental illness kills. People judging mental illness without educating themselves first is much more dangerous than most mentally ill people are.

  5. Deloris June 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    I will say this: there IS a need for OPEN DIALOGUE. So there isn’t a stigma and people will talk about their issues, both physical and mental.

    Example: I went on a trip with a person that turned into a nightmare as she had sugar diabetes, didn’t tell anyone else. She was just grumpy, moody, and contrary all week. We found out later she was diabetic and wasn’t taking care of herself correctly. I flew back EARLY to get away her.

    There was another person that was very smart and she had many degrees and certs to show for her hard work. Found out years later, she was bipolar. Several of her friends and I were talking and thought about the MANY times she would EXPLODE and go off on people, act strange, say way off the wall stuff…. BOTTOM-LINE, one has to be very careful with whom you go on trips with, DATE, live with, start a business with or marry!! JUST because when you get financially and emotionally wrapped up with another person it can be HELL ON EARTH, trying to separate yourself….

    In the corporate world (and b4 I get financially or emotionally connected ever again) one has to FULLY DISCLOSE any physical or mental abnormalities. That is how the “everyday” world should be also. Would save a lot of agony.

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