First and foremost, this is not a post about guns or gun control. This is completely about the effect mass shootings have on the public’s opinion of mental health. In light of recent events, mental health is a major topic. Mass shootings always seem to raise the question of mental stability. I mean, no one in their right mind would shoot up a school, right? But does associating mental health with these horrific events discredit mental health? Using mental illnesses as a scapegoat when these events take place cultivates the divide between the mentally “healthy” and the mentally “unhealthy”. Connecting mental health problems with crimes bathes mental health in a negative light and undermines its validity.
Almost any discussion about mental health is an uphill battle. So many people disagree on how to approach it, how to treat people with disorders, and if it’s even a real thing. Bringing in crime and violence makes that conversation even more difficult. Associating violent crimes with a person’s mental health often leaves the idea that all people with mental health disorders are criminals and dangerous and should be feared and locked up. A Time article stated, “It is important to remember that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness.” Labeling people as dangerous stigmatizes an entire population. Neurodivergent people are seen as inferior because of something they had no control over, society simply perpetuates these ideas.
The words used to describe people with mental health disorders who have committed a crime are egregious. The President of the United States uses the term, “sicko”, and many articles use terms like, “depressed psychopath”. Again, I in no way condone the actions of any mass murderer, and I don’t want to give them the scapegoat of a mental health disorder. However, it is evident that mental health plays a major role in mass shootings, and this should be considered when referring to them. Treatments should be available for these people before these horrific events occur, but certainly after as well.
A large proportion of people suffer from mental health problems, one in four Americans have a mental health disorder, but only two-thirds of diagnosed people ever seek treatment. Suffering from a mental illness sounds scary to many people, and the negative connotation makes seeking help daunting. But not treating them is what leads to problems. As a society, we have to normalize mental health. We need to allow our community to know they can seek help without judgement, and we need to advocate for people who need help.