Violence is Not a Mental Health Issue It is a Crime Issue, and Other Responses to Stigma

A woman with an air of presumed superior knowledge, said, “I do not believe depression is an illness. I just don’t.” 

Period. In her mind depression is always a choice, a selfish choice, and one people use to gain self-centered attention. Her opinion is particularly unfair because she allows no room for discussion. 

Ideas like hers are called stigma. Stigma is false judgmental information widely accepted as true.

Another woman referred to survivors of suicide attempts as people who could “just go off” at any moment and violently hurt people.

Yikes. I have to shake my head violently. Where does this foolishness come from? Yet another stigma puts me and millions of others in the corner. 

Do you have similar beliefs, or do you question the truth in the women’s statements?

Stigma provides simple answers to complex problems. Imagine a math student deciding to ignore subtraction and add all the numbers instead. Stigma is like that. We avoid learning anything new and rely only on old information. This leads to very wrong conclusions.

Firstly, no one IS a diagnosis. People may battle cancer, have heart failure, and struggle with broken bones. In the same way, people may battle depression, have schizophrenia, and struggle with anxiety. As with all mental health challenges, stigma says, “He is bipolar” instead of “he has bipolar disorder.”

Secondly, no one wants to feel depressed. Does it make sense for millions of people to  put their lives on hold for the fun of it? Really? Depression is a very treatable mood disorder that affects about 1 in 4 people. Major depression is rarer yet not uncommon. It can lead to suicide. 

Thirdly, violence is not a mental health issue. Surprise! Violence is a crime issue. It is committed by vastly larger numbers of people without mental illness than those who have had a mental health challenge. People experiencing mental illness are far more likely to bring harm to themselves than to others.

Stigma in reporting will mislead if we do not question it. Often, a report will mention that the latest mass shooter saw a psychiatrist in his past. It is assumed the murderer was “crazy” rather than evil. Nope. 

Finally, suicide is not an anger management problem.  It is brought on by a sense of hopelessness. Survivors of suicide attempts have already been outed as folks who turn their anger and pain inward. Nah, it is highly unlikely we will suddenly burst and hurt other people. 

You want to know what is a violence and anger management problem?  Stigma. Fear mongering over the unknown drives people to treat others unfairly, and even to attack. Listen. Read. Learn.

Today’s Helpful Word

Exodus 23:1

“Do not spread false reports.”

**** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. (for international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

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