USA Today on Thursday published an editorial hopeful entitled, Editorial: Fix broken mental health system. Which would be fine as a stand-alone piece advocating more money, focus and resources for our nation’s patchwork system of mental health and recovery care.
Instead, they — like many well-meaning but apparently brain-dead newspapers — tie the need to fix our mental health care system — something others have been advocating for for decades — to recent headline-news grabbing acts of atrocious violence.
Only buried in this hypocritical, two-faced gutter-piece editorial do you find the truth — “Only the tiniest fraction of the mentally ill ever become violent, and then, usually when they fail to get treatment.” It’s even worse than that — statistically speaking, mental illness is a horrible predictor of violence, and nobody who’s read the research would ever suggest otherwise.
I have no problem with you advocating to help people with mental health concerns. I have a big problem if you’re doing so because of violence in America. The two have little to no connection with one another.
People let to get all riled up and angry when something tragic occurs. It’s one way many of us cope and try to figure out such events. But when we respond to tragic events with action, we’re likely to do so in a way that makes little sense in the overall, broader picture.
The fact is people with mental health conditions are no more likely to be violent than is the general population.
~ Wayne Lindstrom
For instance, every year in America, over 12,000 people a year are murdered — most by some sort of gun. Nobody gets upset at that huge number, or that 30,000+ people a year who take their own lives.
Instead, the thing that USA Today wants us to get motivated by are these horrific acts of violence that barely read in the overall number of deaths per year due to gun violence. USA Today doesn’t seem to care about the 30,000+ people each year who, because of untreated depression or other mental health concerns, choose to end their lives.1
Wayne Lindstrom, the CEO of Mental Health America, on the other hand, gets it right in his response to the crummy piece of what passes for “insightful opinion” at USA Today:
The premise that we can predict or prevent violent acts is unsupported. Even in the case of severe mental illnesses, mental health professionals possess no special knowledge or ability to predict future behavior.
The fact is people with mental health conditions are no more likely to be violent than is the general population. Continuing to link violence and mental illness only stigmatizes people and deters them from seeking care.
We whole-heartedly share and endorse these words. We stand proudly with Mental Health America and other organizations who’ve read the research and know that linking mental illness to violence is like linking terrorism to a specific religion — it’s a feel good strategy imbeciles do to make themselves feel better.
USA Today rues the good ole days, when we could lock up anyone society disagreed with or didn’t like the looks of in a mental hospital (nowadays referred to an inpatient psychiatric hospital): “Many states have become so strict that it is almost impossible to get people committed until they are in deep crisis, or try to commit suicide or harm someone.” Awww, what a shame — we actually have a reasonable, humane standard before trying to take someone’s freedom away from them.
USA Today should be ashamed of itself for publishing an editorial that only reinforces the discrimination, stigma and prejudice against people with mental health concerns. They continue to spread misinformation about the link between mental illness and violence,2 and suggest we have some sort of magical powers of foresight that would allow us to predict these kinds of incidents with such accuracy, it would be like the science-fiction story, “Minority Report” (we don’t have such magical powers, sorry).
USA Today crap editorial: Editorial: Fix broken mental health system
Wayne Lindstrom’s response: Opposing view: Don’t link violence with mental illness