Our View: Rejecting the Stigma of Mental Illness
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 17:01
2013 is a young year, and already America has been rocked by a series of violent and atrocious acts against some of our most vulnerable and innocent citizens. These ‘mass shootings’ have re-opened the discussion on a wide range of subjects, from the boundaries of legal gun ownership to the accessibility of quality mental health care. Anytime there is a shooting of the magnitude of Newton, Conn., mental health professionals are called upon to profile the shooter. The message that seems to be echoed by the media at large is that the mentally ill could be just one step away from a violent act, and that being mentally ill is somehow fundamentally different than being physically ill.
As with most prejudices, the stigma surrounding the mentally ill is statistically unfounded. Research from the Department of Health and Human Services found that mental illness is not correlated with violent tendencies, and that the mentally ill are less likely to commit violent acts than their “normal” counterparts. They are actually much more likely to be the victims of violent or predatory acts. More importantly, we have to discuss what does makes someone more likely to act violently. In general, mental illness alone doesn’t incline a person toward violence. But the presence of other risk factors does make assaults more likely. Those factors include, but are not limited to: a history of violence (whether the person has witnessed it or been a victim or perpetrator), substance abuse, and lack of a support system, including homelessness, poverty and inadequate housing.
Instead of keeping these false ideas alive about our fellow citizens who are struggling with psychological disorders, we should focus on lessoning the effects of some of these risk factors. The most important step to this is improving our standard of communication. Students who feel like they, or someone close to them is suffering from a psychological disorder shouldn’t hesitate to seek help. The counseling center at ASU is a resource for students attempting to take the first steps to recovery.
“Our View” is written by the editorial staff. The opinions are not necessarily reflective of the student body, faculty or administration of Arkansas State University.