Of late, our world events have included a multitude of violent acts that have compromised our understanding of safety and have taken the lives of many all over the globe. These events can leave us sad and provoke fear into our lives where normally we would engage in activities freely and joyfully. As these events are reported by the media, and further discussed in more casual conversation, more than once I have heard the sentiment that “the person must have a mental illness because of what happened.” This type of statement makes my heart ache terribly for the true misunderstanding that the speaker must have about mental illness and how these diseases affect another person. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (www.mentalhealth.gov):
- 1 in 5 persons in America have experienced a mental health issue
- 1 in 25 Americans have suffered from a serious mental illness such schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder
- Only 3-5% of persons with serious mental are involved with violent crimes; and are 10 times more likely to be the victim of a violent crime
That statement more portrays our inability as a nation to understand how another human being could move to hurt numerous people seemingly without remorse; and perpetuates the stigmatization of persons already victimized beyond what many of us normally endure. The cause of mental illness is not the absolute answer we are seeking. I wish I could respond with a viable answer to the rise in violence in our community, but have nothing tangible to offer at this time. What I can assure you is that statistically it is impossible for us to feasibly jump to the conclusion that a medical disease is the cause of societal pain.
Please take a moment to hug those you love, be kind to those you don’t know, and seek to understand when it’s possible. Grace and goodwill are what we can give freely to those who need it most.