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Loughner and the Stigma

Chrisa Hickey4 comments1300 views

The army of armchair psychiatrists have weighed in on the tragic shootings in Tucson last Saturday.

Arizona Shooting Tragic Reminder of Dangers of Mental Illness – WWLT, New Orleans

Mental Illness Claims 9, Wounds 10 – Some clueless idiot on Technorati

Why Are The Mentally Ill Still Bearing Arms? – Time Magazine

It’s no wonder there’s a stigma around mental illness.  Every outlet from The Wall Street Journal to Facebook has posts, comments, and articles about how the mentally ill should be locked up so this kind of thing doesn’t happen.  Rand Paul, sight unseen, diagnosed Loughner as a paranoid schizophrenic.  Never mind that the man is an ophthalmologist (Rand Paul, not Loughner).

Here’s the truth about violence and mental illness.

So while the tragedy in Tucson may be a platform for the Nation to have a conversation about the availability (or unavailability) of mental health care, the need for more and better mental health screenings at college campuses, and the education of parents about the warning signs for mental illnesses, it should not be a platform for every yabbo with a personal computer to perpetuate the stigma that persons with Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and Depression are a danger to society.  My child, and others with similar conditions, is 50 times more likely to die by his own hand than is his brother.  And 38% of the population hopes they never have to come in contact with him because they fear he may  hurt them.  Why?  Because of articles like the ones above.

Please – if someone comments to you, even off-handedly, about how dangerous people with schizophrenia are, stop.  Tell them the statistics.  Explain the stigma.  Try and change their perception.  If we can all enlighten just one person, then the dialog we have around a horrible crime like this will be about how we provide services and educate the public, rather than be an off-handed comment about scary people with mental illness.

4 Comments

  1. Saw your comment on the Southern Poverty Law Center blog [and left my own], and found my way here. My brother has schizophrenia. Your post is so on-target and I am afraid we are headed for a backlash against people with mental illness like the one we saw after President Reagan was shot~a backlash that has nothing whatsoever to do with effectively preventing the tragedy at hand, that shows no concern about the needs of our citizens affected by mental illness or their families, and that demonizes mentally ill people. And I am afraid all this will occur whether or not Jared Loughner has any form of mental illness.

  2. I'm a reader of Jennifer's blog, so I thought I'd pop over to see yours after reading your comment. Interesting statistics. I would have totally thought that schizophrenics would be more violent than the rest of the population.

  3. Even just on a semantic level we alienate the mentally ill. By talking about "schizophrenics" instead of people with schizophrenia, we lose sight of the person in there. That coupled with the armchair prognostications after every tragic shooting leaves out the 99.999999% of mental illness sufferers who aren't violent. I tried to cover these topics on my graphic I just finished. If you like it feel free to share it with your readers.
    Link: http://www.bestmedicaldegrees.com/schizophrenia/

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