Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Guest Column: Let's stop blaming the mentally ill

Guest Column: Let's stop blaming the mentally ill

  • Updated

There is a bloody war being waged in America; gun advocates versus those who would ban guns. This "civil" war may go on for a long time.

Meanwhile, those suffering from mental illnesses unfairly shoulder the blame for atrocities committed against the innocent.

This is an unreasonable situation. Armed persons firing into crowds, whether at schools or shopping malls, defies reason and causes all of us to feel vulnerable. It also takes its toll on those with mental illnesses. Words like "crazy" and "deranged" fly across the front pages, and the mentally ill in treatment, saddled with severe funding cuts and ongoing social stigma, take it on the chin.

A 2009 study in the Archives of General Psychiatry states, "If a person has severe mental illness without substance abuse and a history of violence, he or she has the same chance of being violent during the next three years as any other person in the general population."

"It's unproductive to besmirch a whole group of people recovering from (mental) illnesses as if they are all dangerous - when in fact, they're not," says Duke University medical sociologist Jeffery Swanson.

Who kills? Do guns kill or do people kill? The NRA would have us believe that the Newtown murderer could have carried out his massacre of 26 people including 20 children with any weapon, and that a semiautomatic rifle is no more effective in a crowd than a cleaver. They would have us believe that video games have created a cadre of psychotic individuals and that the proliferation of combat rifles has no bearing on these murders.

Our focus of late has been on mass murders, but every day in this country people are killed by gunfire either by others, by their own hand or by accident. When a child finds an unlocked gun and through natural curiosity fires it - accidentally killing himself - the argument that it is people, not guns who kill, falls flat.

In every human drama, someone profits and someone loses. In this regrettable situation, the NRA and its members and manufacturers profit while the public at large and those in and out of mental-health recovery lose.

In the aftermath of the recent tragedy that sent 20 children to their early graves and killed teachers and others at the school who attempted to defend them, the sales pitch of gun advocates that "freedom equals a gun placed in the hands of every American" will probably continue.

Though we cry "never again!" from the rooftops, unless we stop criminalizing everyone with a mental illness and lift the burden of too many guns from our shoulders, America's war with itself will continue and the body count will increase.

Lollie Butler is the director of the program Heart to Heart, through the National Alliance for Mental Illness of Southern Arizona.

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News