Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Stop blaming mental illness for violent crimes.

Just read Stop blaming mental illness for violent crimes by Dean Burnett over at The Guardian. It reminds me of  some tweets I’ve been seeing regarding the media coverage of this - and all recent - shootings. First, that "mental illness" is used as a descriptor in regards to white shooters only, whereas terrorism or other racially charged language is used with people of colour, and also, white folks are often represented with "nice" photographs - never their mugshots. Especially young white people.

These last few weeks have been heavy. 2016 is a fucking brutal son of a bitch. The Ramsay Bolton of recent years (the Game of Thrones episode "Battle of the bastards" just played this past Sunday). It's shooting after shooting. Celebrity deaths (Bowie, Prince, Anton Yelchin just died). Personally my family had its medical issues, Global Transient Amnesia, Vertigo, and Bell's Palsy (all in early 2016). It's just been exhausting. I'm tired. But the onslaught continues.

Politically lately the rhetoric and news coverage has been tense. The UK has Brexit, the Americans have the presidential race and their gun debates, and locally it seems like the economy and jobs has been the big issue. I've been having trouble at work, my hours have been cut, it's super quiet, I just feel zero job security and its playing on my anxiety and depression.

It just feels like a tense time. And right now I feel like terms like "mental illness" are being thrown around a lot in the media, especially in regards to white shooters. Burnett's piece pulled out certain points I'd like to talk about here.
But the idea that certain mental illnesses inevitably cause violence is far more prevalent than the evidence warrants. Numerous studies have shown that those with mental health problems are more often the victims of violence, not perpetrators.
It seems out of every few stories coming out of the united states where a black man was killed by police, information surfaces afterwards about that man having been in crisis. Overall the media coverage of the last few months has been torn apart on social media because of how lacking it is. Intersectionality is rarely applied.
Mental illness doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s tangled up with everything else in a person’s life. Upbringing, background, poverty, general health, experiences, genetics, and so on. Essentially, if you exclude the contribution of all other possible factors, the link between mental illness and violence becomes increasingly small. It’s far more common for people to be violent if they also have a substance abuse problem. You could argue this implies the mental illness is a consequence, alongside the violent behaviour, of other issues affecting the person. So blaming mental health for crimes is often like blaming the getaway car for a bank robbery; it’s just one part of the whole situation, and not even the most important.
How is it that some of us feel it all, and some of us don't? We see it. Don't they?
You’d think if the people/media who blamed mental illness for violent crime genuinely believed that, they’d be more alarmed about the state of mental health treatment and facilities. But no, there’s rarely a mention as mental health services are put under massive debilitating strain by cuts and ignorance. We live in a world where a pensioner can’t take a bottle of water onto a plane because they might somehow turn it into a bomb and countless rights are sacrificed in the name of security, but those who think people with mental illness are all killers-in-waiting are fine with them not getting adequate help or care.
Is it all about money and power? Is it about easy blame and distraction? It's all too much these days. I need a break. A vacation. A holiday. I'm broke. My job situation is a mess. What are my options? Lately, it's been a shower and going to bed real early. It's all I've got right now.

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