Every time a mass shooting occurs, people will try to point the blame in one direction when in reality it is a multitude of issues which lead to these appalling events. The population will try to rationalize and “understand” what happened, and most of the time, this comes at the expense of the mentally ill.
Whenever news of a tragedy like this comes out, news outlets and politicians are quick to point a finger at mental illness. People will label the shooters as mentally ill, or mentally unstable, regardless of whether or not they have any definitive information on these shooters.
While the news media is quick to justify these events by blaming mental illness, it should be noted that in reality these events are acts of terrorism.
Mental illness isn’t an act. It’s any of a number of health conditions or disorders that affect one’s mood, thinking or behavior. Terrorism, on the other hand, is a specific act of violence or intimidation, used to achieve some dark end. It’s clear in definition that mental illness and terrorism are separate things, not synonyms.
Politicians will say that we need to change laws with regards to the mentally ill. According to the American Mental Health Counselors Association, in violent crimes, only three percent are perpetrated by the mentally ill, and of those crimes even fewer (one percent) involve firearms. To assume that the mentally ill are violent is clearly wrong.
Mass murders are hard to anticipate and are semi-random in their occurrence, and to this day there is no firm classification for incidents of mass murder. Regardless of this, the people who commit these crimes often are not identified as mentally ill, and being mentally ill is not a direct reason for committing a mass murder.
In immediately pointing the finger at the mentally ill every time an atrocity happens, we are only perpetuating an unfair and untrue stereotype that has been around for as long as we have known about mental illness.
When we talk about all mass murderers and shooters as “mentally ill,” it throws a label on all mentally ill people as violent and dangerous in the eyes of the general public, when in reality that is not the case. When we do this, it makes the mentally ill out to be ticking time bombs and a threats to the world when often they are only threats to themselves.
The real problem connecting guns and mental illness is not the danger to the general public, but the danger to the mentally ill themselves. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 60 percent of deaths caused by firearms are due to suicide, and of that 60 percent, 72 percent of the people who get these guns are legally eligible to get guns.
If we are to point to a problem between guns and mental illness, it should not be their dangers to the world It should be their dangers to themselves.
When we label all mass murderers as mentally ill, we not only mislabel the reason for these events happening, but we also give the mentally ill a bad name. Doing this to people who already experience stigma does nothing to help the real problems in the world, and if anything, it makes these problems worse.
Calling anyone a killer or dangerous just based off of one trait would hurt anyone, let alone people who already go through so much.
We always look to point a finger at someone, but to point the finger at the mentally ill is unfair, unjust and untrue.