Loughner and the Stigma
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.
- Persons with mental illness are two and a half times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the rest of the population.
- The citizens of Pittsburgh are twice as likely to attack a stranger than a person with a mental illness.
- Persons with schizophrenia are much more likely to be withdrawn and shun the public than be violent.
- There is no scientific evidence that mental illness causes violence.
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.