There is a strong correlation between mental health and gun violence, but correlation doesn’t mean causation. There is no data showing America having a higher rate of mental health than any other country. I created a survey and sent it out to my community. All 25 of the respondents said they believed in mental health and knew someone who suffered from a mental health disorder. 85% said mental health and mass shootings are related. Although no one denied the relationship, several people did say it’s hard to make direct connections because of our limited knowledge of mental health. The link between violence and mental health problems is a wide held misbelief. A Huffington post article said about mental health, “Another popular misconception is that individuals with mental health problems…typical exhibit violent and out-of-control behavior. While it is true that some mentally ill people demonstrate those tendencies, the truth is that individuals with mental illness are more dangerous to themselves than they are to others.”

These beliefs are perpetuated by a lack of understanding. When the media we see most feeds us false information, it can be hard to distinguish between the truth and lies. The same article from before said, “the portrayal of individuals with mental health issues in television leaves much to be desired. One study found that, while half of the instances involving individuals with mental health issues were sympathetic, the majority of references to mental health — 63 percent — were either dismissive or negative. Other television portrayals were actively feeding into and reinforcing existing social stigma.” Because we lack understanding,we are afraid and assume the worst. This worsens the stigma and outcasts the mentally ill.

So how to we combat this growing issue? In my survey, all 25 people acknowledged the difficulty in telling when a person has challenges with their mental health, but some of the respondents still said mentally ill people are violent and should have to deal with their illness on their own. I asked the respondents, “Should mental health check ups be mandatory like the dentist or annual doctor’s check up?” Over half said “yes”,  but many said this should only be an option for people who appear to need it. The same response was given for another question asking about putting people in facilities against their will. The most important step in normalizing mental health disorders is to educate the population so we all have the same, correct information to make decisions with.

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2 Comments
  1. Kyle Clark 6 months ago

    I think it would be very impactful if people saw your line that says we assume the worst in the mentally ill because of fear, which worsens the stigma. It is a great line that stores a lot into a concise form. Something I also think is important for people to understand is that those with mental illness have trouble figuring out where to place their pain. They may either put it back into themselves or they may even try to relieve themselves of it by harming other people, hoping it will improve how they feel. From this, I do not think that it is a total misbelief that there is some connection with mental health and violence. It is just not present in all situations. A more common form of this is bullying. Also, a question I have is if people only think that mental illness translates into violence, or if they only believe that it can express itself in severe forms. Other forms of mental illness, such as OCD, may tend to be nonviolent but may result in self-harm depending on the level that a person possesses it.
    Overall, I think you make a great point and blocking ourselves off from learning about mental health will only worsen the stigma. It is important to discover new outlets to ease any pain a person may have.

  2. Zoe 2 years ago

    Cicely, I really liked how you distinguished the difference between correlation and causation. I very much agree with you that we need to better educate the public. How do you think we should go about doing this? Should it be a part of health class in schools or a required course? When should we start talking about mental health?

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