Stop. Just Stop.

The news media reported again on August 16, 2019, President Trump stating “The gun doesn’t pull the trigger — they pull the trigger — and we’re looking at mental illness at a level that hasn’t been done before” adding that we should “start building institutions again. We have to open up institutions.”

“They” of course refers to people with mental illnesses. The president, other politicians, and pundits are unfairly blaming mass shootings on people with mental illnesses. While it’s easy to assume that someone “isn’t in their right mind” to plan out and kill so many people, evil and hate exist in our society and it doesn’t mean that someone has a diagnosed mental illness. Data from studies bears this out. People with mental illnesses are far more likely to be victims of crimes due to their vulnerability and only roughly 4% of violent crimes committed in this country are by someone with a mental illness.

Most of the mass shooters are young and white, don’t have a diagnosis of a serious mental illness and have never been committed to involuntary treatment. Painting a picture that people with mental illnesses become mass shooters is wrong. It results in further discrimination against people with mental illnesses. It creates fear in communities and makes it harder to develop community services, particularly residential treatment facilities and supportive housing. It also prevents people from seeking help for fear of how they will be perceived.

Sound bites are not solutions. Other countries have people with mental illnesses, women have mental illnesses – and yet mass shootings are rare among them. The U.S. has led the world in mass shootings for decades. Finding out why those young men are alienated from society and by looking at the guns that are used to kill so many people so quickly may lead to better solutions.

Lets face it going back to the institutions of the 1950s is a red herring and a blatant attempt to move attention away from real solutions. Opening up institutions again won’t prevent mass shootings and there was a reason they were closed – they were terrible and inhumane. In the meantime, please stop. Stop blaming people with mental illnesses.

In addition to this statement from Sue Abderholden, you can also read the reaction from NAMI National and a blog post from Pete Early and articles from the NY Post, Time Magazine, and Jillian Peterson.