Monday, September 23, 2013

How Shootings Stigmatize People Living with Mental Illness

By Michael J. Fitzpatrick, NAMI Executive Director

On Sept. 20, CNN.com invited and published the following guest article by NAMI Executive Director Michael J. Fitzpatrick. NAMI also released statements on the Navy Yard tragedy on Sept. 17 and Sept. 19.

When tragedies occur, such as the one at the Navy Yard in Washington, all Americans are deeply affected.

They include the one in four American adults who experience mental health problems. That's approximately 60 million Americans. Their first reaction is much like that of anyone else: feelings of anger and anguish and wanting to know when such events will ever stop.

But there's another, secondary impact to this community if a history of mental illness is suspected. Tragically, in the case with the Navy Yard gunman, mental illness appears to be a factor. But in too many cases, people simply assume that it is, no matter how much we caution that it's best not to attempt to diagnose any medical condition speculatively through the news media.

Unfortunately, stigma surrounds mental illness. It's most associated with a violent stereotype. The result has always been fear, prejudice and discrimination toward anyone struggling with a mental health problem.

The stereotype endures despite the fact that the U.S. Surgeon General has found that the likelihood of violence from people with mental illness is low. In fact, "the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small."

Despite the impact of the Navy Yard tragedy and those of Newtown, Aurora and Virginia Tech on perceptions, a much greater, different reality exists. Many thousands of veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Civilian employees of the military seek help for depression; teachers live with anxiety disorders. Students succeed academically while managing bipolar disorder.

People living with schizophrenia may be psychologists, professors, peer counselors or businesspersons. They are all members of their communities. Few are violent.

In the face of violence, people may simply be unable to fathom how an event could occur other than through mental illness, thought of often in non-medical terms such as "madness" or "insanity." Their perceptions also are conditioned by headlines that largely overshadow the greater reality.

Stigma perpetuated by the Navy Yard tragedy will be internalized by many people living with mental health problems, causing them to stay silent and withdraw from others. This will impede their recovery in many ways.

Stigma will remain a major barrier that keeps people reaching out for help when they need it.

In the wake of such tragedies, some will call for persons with mental health problem to be "screened out" by employers in the hiring process or to deny them security clearances. In the first case, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides some protection against discrimination, but it is not always followed or easily enforced.

With top secret security clearances, just ask any member of the military or government official or contractor about the anxiety they often feel if they need to see a psychiatrist and then need to disclose it as part of a security clearance application or review.

Many issues need to be addressed in the case of the Navy Yard tragedy and the tragedies before it. They include what happened -- or didn't happen -- in the military and veterans mental health care systems, particularly when the gunman allegedly sought help from the Veterans Health Administration. Was there effective engagement?

The response of law enforcement should also be addressed. In theory, had the police both arrested and charged the gunman in past incidents involving a gun or disorderly conduct, he would have been put into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database and prohibited from buying a gun, regardless of his mental health status. It is also possible that his case might have been handled by a mental health court, leading to supervision and treatment.

Had Rhode Island police who responded to the gunman's 911 call for help in August been trained for crisis intervention and worked with a mobile crisis unit to have him medically evaluated, then perhaps this past week's horrors could have been averted.

Those are issues that must be pursued. But in the haste to respond, let's not stigmatize or discriminate against the millions of American who live productively with mental illness and who share the anguish and anger of other Americans in response to tragic horrors.

If stigma wins, things won't get better.

63 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. Stigma is a common topic that I am constantly trying to combat in Utah. I have a mental illness and I am copying this on my fb page.
From:
A mental health advocate.

Mike Burke said...

I agree with you sir, There is a prevailing stigma blowing through this land with a force of a hurricane. This stigma is so pungent that any one who may have a mental illness or disorder is viewed as a criminal because of actions that they could take not that they have taken. Valuable resources such as the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (the DSM) are very often blown way out of context by the gas-bagging media who wish to do nothing but over-sensationalize a story. That behavior causes alarm and fear because people don't know how to respond to anything that may be out of the normal. Most people who have a condition want to be accepted just like anyone else, they want to be just like everyone else,understanding that they are not like everyone else. We live in a society that abhors that which is not normal when we have parents writing hate mail to the family of of a Down Syndrome Child for nothing that he could control. This hate is not an isolated incident, it is on the prevailing wind in this country. The stigmas that surround the special needs and disabled are to the point where the stigma itself is also a mental disorder. It denigrates, demeans and demoralizes those who have a condition. It's anti-tolerant and appalling. How do we change the attitudes and show that just because a person has a mental illness it is not an automatic precursor to criminal behavior. Not everybody who has a mental illness wants to go shoot a place up and hurt or kill people. People need to be more cognizant of the situation around them by getting the big picture and getting out of their little boxes.

Catherine Hrusa said...

Such a great article. I live with mental illnesses myself. I think about this whenever a tragedy occurs and the media emphasizes the person was treated for mental illness.

Catherine Hrusa said...

Such a good article. I myself live with mental illnesses. I think about this exact thing when tragedies occur and the media emphasizes that the person was treated for mental illness.

Sherry Walker-Roberson said...

I am a mother of one of those one out of four American living with mental illness.My son took the life of his father and a close friend and tried to kill his brother as well.It happened to my family and is happening to other families all across the U.S.

Christie said...

I am trying to set up an educational forum of people w/ varying mental illnesses, I myself have Bipolar Disorder. I want to get the public educated and also develop resources such as support groups for patients, family, caregivers, etc. I live in Palm City,FL and there are no resources and after listening to Bob Beckel on The Five refer to "people w/mental problems as fruitcakes" totally enrages me. I have been trying to contact my state and federal legislators, but so far nothing. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

Sherry,

if 1 our of 4 americans have mental illness, I would assure you that no where near 1 out of 4 americans is a killer. If that were the case, consider that many families have 4 people, that means most families would be dead. So, please do not hold your opinions against others with mental illness, the actions of one person does nothing to predict the actions of another. Keep in mind, saying that a killer had mental illness, you might as well say the breathed air through their mouth, it is non sequitir. And as per that cliché that the best predictor of future violence is past violence, I wish people would understand that past violence does not guarantee or suggest automatically future violence, otherwise we'd give the death penalty to every grade school kid who ever got in a schoolyard fight.

Anonymous said...

Great comments. How about all the gun violence in the united states that occurs from "normal" people everyday? Mental illness is like any other illness. Its easy for the media to "label" people suffering from mental illness as "villains".

I know allot of normal people that are "crazy"....

Anonymous said...

My child has a mental health illness, she's an adult but still my child. Whenever I hear of these tragedies the thought of how people will treat her come to mind. The mental health system needs to be revamped. For years I tried to get her help but because she was over 18 nothing could be done. I did several EPs, they would hospitalize her for a few days, let her out and everything would start allover again. Not until she did something which involved the legal system was she required to take medications and therapy or go to jail. When we as family members try to get help for our loved ones why are barriers put up and doors closed? I believe if our states would past laws that help enpower the families a few of these tragedies could be avoided.

Clayton said...

While many of those suffering from mental illnesses are not unusually violent, this is not generally case with schizophrenia. The study of Indiana murder convicts completed in 2002 found that 3.7% suffered from schizophrenia, compared to 1.1% of the general population. A number of studies completed form the 1970s through the present also show that some of the psychotic disorders have disproportionate levels of violence associated with them (although usually when combined with substance abuse problems). Interestingly enough, when involuntary commitment was not so difficult, arrests for violent crimes of the mentally ill were actually lower than the general population -- probably because those with serious problems were hospitalized before it turned into a headline.

The problem is real. Is it stigmatizing? Without question. But that doesn't make it false.

It is important to distinguish between schizophrenia and the more extreme forms of bipolar disorder and the much more common problems such as depression and OCD. Some are primarily a tragedy for the sufferer; some are a very real hazard for the larger society.

Anonymous said...

I wish there was a Facebook share button associated with this article so it could be shared with friends. This is a very good article and needs to be shared with individuals that might not go to NAMI website.

Anonymous said...

I have a 34 yo bipolar 1 with multiple substance. We have been dealing with his mental illness for most of his life. I truly feel that educatting our country is the key to help stop mental illness stigma. It needs to be spoken about on a regular basis with knowledgable people who can be an advocate for our loved ones whether it be by commercials, noteworthy TV programs, educators, psychiatrists, etc. We also need the government with the new changes in healthcare to allow all people with mental illness or perhaps the signs of mental illness to be able to seek treatment regardless of their ability to pay. Our son has not received treatment for approximately 2 years due to lack of insurance and inability to pay, thus is on no medications at this time. Without the ability to pay for treatment, he also does not have the financial means to pay for the high cost of the medications. I pray daily that he does not become a statistic when it will be too late.

Big World said...

My sincerest condolences to the Walker-Roberson family.

My wife of sixteen years suffers from brain disorder and I understand how the stigma of having such a condition plagues the minds of many Americans. Diagnosis brings on the misconception that one is of a weaker mind or lacking in self discipline. Both of which compound into a struggle to accept medication as treatment much less endure the lengthy process to find a healthy balance. A balance between insomnia, anxiety, exercise, depression, fatigue and the busyness of the mind. Having a brain disorder (mental illness) is a long painful road to endure, filled with what seems to be insurmountable obstacles. If one in four of us suffer from this- than I am certain most are still struggling to get proper treatment. Partly because of the stigma both internally and externally that comes with it.

zetta2492 said...

Thank you! A very appropriate, timely, and cogent article. I live with depression and tried to take my own life over the despair of losing my younger brother to cancer. I fight everyday to stay productive and show the world that someone with a mental illness can be a productive member of society. Most days I succeed!

Carter West said...

Dear Mr. Fitzpatrick: Thank you for coming to our defense once again. Events such as Newtown or the Navy Yard engender confusion in the public mind regarding mental illness, far more heat than light. It's vital that we counter the myths with real stories of recovery.

I want to call to your attention, though, to your misuse of the terms "stigma" and "stigmatize." Your article is titled "How Shootings Stigmatize People Living with Mental Illness." This misses the fact of the matter. It's human beings - in our case, the entirety of an ill-informed society - who do the stigmatizing, not the tragic events themselves. Shootings have been and will be committed by persons in every walk of life. It's the interpretations society places upon them that leads to the stigmatization of persons with mental illnesses.

To say that shootings stigmatize sadly reinforces the very trap we're trying to escape from. It assumes that shootings themselves carry a pre-loaded, heavily negative essential meaning *set apart* from those meanings society brings to bear upon the shooters ("crazy," "lunatic," "mentally ill"). It covers society's role as the source of stigmatization with a puff of blue smoke. It puts the shooting at hand forward as the subject of scrutiny, diverting attention away from the very engine of prejudice we're trying to demolish. Simply put, when it comes to stigmatization, society, not tragedy, is to blame.

Perhaps I've made this too arcane. It's a matter of language, not of substance - except that language is itself substantial. I can only hope I've contributed something positive to your understanding and to your service to NAMI.

Yours sincerely,
Carter West
Malden, Massachusetts

Kathleen Pottle Brannon said...

from my blog allofacircle.blogspot.com

THE MENTALLY ILL AND MASS MURDER

Here we go again with the mass shootings and the mental health of the shooter. There's talk of finding ways to identify the "dangerous" mentally ill people and get them help before they kill. As if the only reason society should look after the mentally ill is because they pose a deadly threat to the "sane" people. The shooter becomes "the new face of mental illness in this country," as Brian Williams said on NBC not long ago (re Ariel Castro, kidnapper, torture, murderer).

I hate these debates because mentally ill people as a whole are LESS violent than sane people and more likely to be victims than perpetrators.

And because it is not possible to predict who will become violent; no particular traits, behaviors or symptoms correlate with violence.

And because forcing someone into treatment violates civil rights even when it would benefit the person.

And because requiring therapists to "turn in" patients who show signs of future violence as defined by these laws would discourage people from seeking treatment in the first place.

And because all this surveiling, investigating, correlating, identifying, forced treatment, denial of rights, and all the rest would require a huge bureaucracy dedicated to social control, which is scary (and besides, we already have the NSA for that).

And because, seriously, what is the problem here? Preventing a very few people who cannot be identified in advance from committing mass murders? Or the absurd number of guns in this country, almost completely unregulated and unlimited?

Control guns not minds. Guns are controllable; minds are not.

Anonymous said...

I as well as several members of my family have mental illness. We have learned that the stigma of the illness is wide spread. We are productive members of society with only ourselves in danger. The only way to destigmatize mental illness is education and all of us coming out of the closet.

JMirisola said...

With all due respect, if you wish to truly end the stigma associated with mental illness, then your organization will take a stand advocating for AOT for those who do not know they are sick and for all of the hospitals and services that used to be available to them to reopen and for our leaders in this country to see to it that those suffering from a mental illness are taken out of our prisons and off of our streets and that the families trying desperately to help them are given the proper support to do so. Maybe then stigma will truly end.

Anonymous said...

Great article. I have a mental illness and whenever something like this happens I realize people will immediately blame guns and the mentally ill. We all need to keep in mind that a very small minority of the mentally ill are committing violent crimes. We also need to keep in mind that the mentally ill are much more likely to be victims of crimes rather than a criminal.

Robert S. Laitman MD said...

It is true that people with effectively treated schizophrenia rarely commit violent acts. In fact clozapine is uniquely effective at mininmizing both self harm and violence against others. The major problem is that that only 50% of patients with schizophrenia are under psychiatric care. Of those that require antipsychotics less than 3% are treated with the most effective antipsychotic clozapine. The fact is that almost all of the mass murders involve an untreated psychotic individual, usually a paranoid schizophrenic. Until we change the laws so that people in need of treatment can be required to receive treatment and until we can cure the incredible under utilization of clozapine in the schizophrenia population we are going to be seeing more tragedies. The fact is that without proper treatment people who are paranoid and delusional are often violent and are frightening. Stigma will persist until we can bring treatment to those so in need.

Rick Covington said...

It would help if media commentators were educated on these issues. It certainly was an unfortunate event when Brian Williams on NBC after the Sandy Hook shootings I believe it was started the report with "We have seen the face of mental illness". How unfair and damaging were those few words on a national news broadcast. NAMI can take a step in fighting stigma by protesting to NBC and other networks, newspapers and magazines and educating them on the facts and issues you address in your article.

Vicki said...

I also thank you for this most important post, when the report on the Navy Yard shooter came out and it said he was under "mental health" treatment I cringed. I did write several responses and sent them to many officials....I was really annoyed that once again someone who was seeking mental health services was "Stigmatize" and I was upset. WE must do so much more to make seeking any sort of mental health treatemnt as being a "bad" thing...and also must somehow get it across that the majority of those who are fortunate to get help are in NO way violent!!!! I have been in therapy most of my life, for several reasons, been in psych hospitals, been on meds, etc....and HAVE dealt with this "stigma" myself ....NAMI and other organizations do a great job of educating folks,but we ALL must educate and participte, this mental health system is broken...and the stigma attached to it is horrid...I have been a Mental Health advocate for many years and will continue to do so. thank you, Vicki Hopkins

colleen austin said...

Mike Burke I couldn't have said that better myself.

colleen austin said...

Mike Burke, I couldn't have said it better myself. Every time there is a mass shooting, it's always someone who has a mental illness. Except it isn't. Some people are just EVIL. And yet it is this type of stigma that may prevent me from owning a gun for protection, a necessity in this day and age. We aren't safe anywhere anymore

Anonymous said...

Please read "The Myth of a Psychiatric Crime Wave" Vitello and Hickey, 2006, Carolina Academic Press. I hope you find the extensive research on stigma useful.

Anonymous said...

From experience I can say that "normal" people are far more likely to victimize the mentally ill than vice versa. An unarmed mentally ill young man was beaten to death by police officers in CA; homeless mentally ill are habitually assaulted and robbed, or harassed for "fun" in cities (and suburbs); or the placement of suicide bombs on mentally disabled people and sending them into the marketplace. When we hear about those things they SHOULD trigger the need to protect the mentally disabled, not stigmatize them further.

Laura Leigh said...

The face of the Navy Yard shooter is the face of serious mental illness left untreated. First let's be honest: the Navy Yard shooter had schizophrenia, which is not a "mental health problem" shared by one in four; it is a serious mental illness with psychosis that strikes one in one hundred. We have research showing that when psychosis is left untreated, the risk for violence does increase. Let's stop blaming the media for the stigma; they are simply doing their job to report these shootings. By contrast, it is the job of NAMI (The i stands for illnesses, not problems) and any other organization being funded to address mental illness to identify places in the mental health system that led to this individual not receiving the help he needed even when he came directly to the attention of the police and other authorities. And after shootings like the Navy Yard and the one in Arizona, let's stop wringing our hands and whining about how these tragedies stigmatizes everyone with a mental health problem, and mindlessly repeating that most people with mental health problems aren't violent(which is irrelevant because the Navy Yard shooter and all the other shooters were seriously mentally ill and obviously were violent.)Instead, let's take responsibility and advocate for systemic changes so the next potential shooter with a serious mental illness with psychosis gets help first.

Anonymous said...

These past months it has been so devastating to watch the violence,mostly by the easy access of hand guns. Since there is such an emotional, angry debate that insues around gun registration , the importance of our society learning about the emotional and behavioral symptoms of brain disorders is overlooked and old myths and ignorant name calling such as crazy, out to lunch, lost it ,mad man, etc.. is no different than the secrecy,shame and paranoid thinking generations ago behind the diagnosis of cancer. Education,is the only way to combat fear, ignorance or blame. .Many families have members with mental health challenges and should never feel alone or ashamed. Education must begin in middle schools.

Daniel Kies said...

Here's how we deal with the "stigma'... We shove it back in their face! I don't want to be on some list limiting my rights because of the meds I take or what I say to my care providers. The only difference between "them" and "us" is our acceptance of our "conditions". Sorry for being crass, but I'm tired of this horseshit. Groups like the NRA want to secure their rights by allowing the government to limit ours. Here's the deal... We are citizens too. We have every right that every other citizen has. If we stand idly by and let them put restrictions on us based on "mental illness" criteria, it won't be long before they're locking us up again. I'm old enough to remember that and I won't have it again. I've been a diagnosed schizophrenic _and_ a firearms enthusiast for more than forty years and I've never harmed a single living being. Granted, I may be an alarmist, but if we allow them to limit our rights in any fashion, soon enough they'll find ways to limit the remainder of our rights. First we can't have firearms, then it's not such a good idea to allow us to vote, and before you know it, we're not competent to voice our opinions in public. Sequestering us is the logical conclusion to that line of thinking. Screw some stigma. Fight! Do not let them marginalize us. I know it's difficult to publicly identify ourselves as individuals suffering from "mental illness", but until we can do so, we are destined to me put in a corner, told to "behave", and left out of the public discussion. I don't want any special consideration because I don't think the way they think I should, but neither do I want to be considered dangerous or worrisome. We need to stand up for ourselves. To hell with stigma. If we do not articulate and assert our rights, they will be lost to us. Stand up. Speak up. Don't let this happen. Don't be afraid. The people who love you will still love you even if you're open about your condition. The people who don't, won't, no matter what. Identify yourselves. Stand in the street with your fist in the air. Once upon a time women weren't right, black people weren't right, foreigners weren't right. It's time. Stand up. To hell with what people think. If we do not assert ourselves, we'll have no one else to blame for how we end up. I won't be locked up again because of the meds I take. Daniel J. Kies Alamogordo NM

Christine Vukan said...

One way to help fight this stigma is to speak up whenever it's expressed. I finally got tired of stories calling people who commit these crimes mental cases or crazy. I submitted a letter to the Editor of the LA Times and it was printed. Here it is:

I'm fed up with informed people like Skelton [author of column] and others throwing around terms like "mental case" and "crazy" to describe a person who may have a mental illness. In a statement about pending legislation in the state Senate, Sen. Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale) used the word "crazy" three times to describe "these people" who go on shooting sprees.

How would Skelton feel if a close relative diagnosed with major depression were referred to as "a mental case"? How would Knight feel if he heard someone describe a relative diagnosed with bipolar disorder as "crazy"?

These terms are belittling and pejorative. They also reinforce the belief that people diagnosed with mental disorders are one pill away from being mass murderers."

Also, when I read an online article like this I often post a comment; when I'm in a group and someone expresses ideas like these I speak up against them (the ideas, not the people). I fight my own small battles using the tools I have: knowledge and communication skills. I noticed another letter on this same subject in the paper last week so I know I'm not fighting alone.

People fear what they don't understand or what they perceive as "different". The best tool we have against this fear and stigma is fighting ignorance about mental disorders.

Anonymous said...

good article.

Carolyn Morman said...

I live with a mental illness and like many who suffer with the disease I am also saddened by the events that took place however I should not have to hold my head down because someone for whatever reason loss control and made a bad choice. I believe that there is a lot more that the public could do to educate themselves when it comes to mental illnesses and tolerance to those who are not violent, who strive to be good citizens...I am for peace and I am a advocate for mental illness as well...

Barbara altman said...

I too have been treated for a mental illness and I do fear that stigma will increase because of these situations. I am a part of respect institute in Saint Louis. We go around to various sites in Saint Louis and talk about our experiences. I think this will go a long way to reduce the stigma.

rcjorgensen said...

Mental Health Stigma is growing but it reflects bad data, because mass shooting events have happened historically, but now are far more frequent. The reason is they are terrorist events labeled mental illness incidents! Implants and technology has made the mass shooters and masked them as mental. CIA BS

JD Markham said...

@ Mike ... Excellent feedback!!! You are right on target.

My two cents ... I worked as a forensic psychiatric nurse and psychiatric emergency nurse for 20 years concurrently, and worked in special education before that. I have watched the mental health system be brutally raped and pillaged to just a mere skeleton, to the detriment of the patients I served. I also wanted to add; the mental illness stigma is highly prevalent among mental health staff and the police as well. I spent a lot of time teaching!

Judy said...

Thank you for this article. I have been treated for mental illness for 28 years. I have chronic severe depression. Every time a shooting, such as the Navy Yard occurs, the media is chomping at the bit to get the word out that the shooter was mentally ill. I am at the place any more where I almost feel guilty when I hear or read that, like I'm one of "those people."

Judy said...

Thank you for this article. I have been treated for mental illness for 28 years. I have chronic severe depression. Every time a shooting, such as the Navy Yard occurs, the media is chomping at the bit to get the word out that the shooter was mentally ill. I am at the place any more where I almost feel guilty when I hear or read that, like I'm one of "those people."

Alice Shapiro said...

I cannot tell for certain whether stigma and fear have been preventing me from getting my musical about schizophrenia produced, but I'm thinking it might be so. It's a shame too because there are clues in the play that may very well help people identify symptoms, and it also offers a very simple solution to turning the potential violent behavior around before it gets to the hard-to-control stage. Anyway, if anyone is interested in taking a look, please visit the website. I welcome your comments.

David Hicks said...

Doesn't it seem odd that widespread stigmatization of mental illness supposedly exists, when antidepressant medications are among the most frequently prescribed drugs in the U.S.?*

This leads me to believe that people are either not as ready to stigmatize individuals with mental illness as some contend or Americans don't associate depression with serious mental illness.

*According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 11 percent of Americans aged 12 and older report taking antidepressant medications. According to CNNHealth.com, citing the same CDC study, "antidepressants have become the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States. They're prescribed more than drugs to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, or headaches." -- from "CDC: Antidepressants most prescribed drugs in U.S." -- CNNHealth.com http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/07/09/antidepressants/

Anonymous said...

Hope is not a simple matter when man is faced with incoherencies and dismal experiences. The mental health community should not only fight a stigma of upsetting experiences but it should be discussing the privacy of all of the mental health communities in the terms of our rights to continue with a medical physician, hope for better dignified days and also to keep our own homes prosperous. A mental health experience should not be a life limiting situation and those with a history of mental health issues should not be removed from social experiences of dignified concern.

Karen L said...

Sherry Walker Roberson,
I wish that the pain I feel over learning about what happened in your family could ease some part of your pain.
Mike Burke,
I wish that everyone could see the truth as clearly as you do. I share your outrage over the stigmas/lack of tolerance. It is especially disheartening in a country that wants to lead the world in democracy.

BipolarBunny said...

My sister, for reasons of spite, not concern, called in a suicide watch on me. One of the paramedics assaulted me, while the police looked on. Everybody in the police and fire departments told me it was okay for him to do that since I had openly admitted to having a mental illness (Bipolar Mixed) and all mentally ill people can turn violent unexpectedly at any moment. When our first responders don't have basic information or don't believe the information and everybody says that's okay, how is there any hope? I wasn't suicidal that night. Had I been, everything they did would have made the situation worse.

john said...

The main behind the mental illness, influences the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and/or relates to others and to his or her surroundings. There are some reasons behind the mental illness, Heredity (genetics), Biology, Psychological trauma, Environmental stress. Emotional support is the best way to help a mentally ill person. Your love, support and care are worked as a medicine.

JOE said...

281ANDRVSUBHAS ANYONE NOTICED---MORNING TV PREVIEWS OF EVENING PROGRAMING THAT SHOW VIOLENT GUN TOTEING SCENES INVOLVING ADULTS. PROGRAMS PREVIEWED ARE 'LAW AND ORDER' 'IRONSIDE', ETC. IMPRESSIONABLE CHILDREN AND MENTALY CHALLENGED ADULTS MAY VIEW THIS AND THINK THIS IS ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR.

SHOULD THE MEDIA BE HELD ACCOUTABLE FOR THIS. SHOULD CENSORSHIP BE ENACTED, OR AM I USING TO MUCH COMMON SENCE. WE ALREADY HAVE COMMON SENCE CENSORSHIP IN THAT, NAKED ADULTS HAVING SEX CAN NOT BE BROADCAST BY THE MEDIA--THEN WHY IS EXPICIT GUN VIOLENCE ACCEPTABLE.

I HEARD RECENTLY A POLITICIAN ASK WHY ARE OUR KIDS SHOOTING EACH OTHER? DAH, WE SHOW THEM HOW-- EVERY DAY!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if these shootings have anything to do with smoking spice or what's called senthetic marijuana sold
in gas stations.
It is very dangerous for anyone, but especially for people
with a mental illness
I think it's very important for everyone to google the dangers of smoking fake marijuana
it's really Scary stuff and I think it's possibly related to much of this violence...

Anonymous said...

My husband had high security clearance, was an officer in Vietnam, and discharged honorably. He has ptsd. His second amendment rights were taken from him by the VA. He has never even had a parking ticket. He has never been commited for mental illness. He never stood before a court. A clerk made the decision to do this to him. We need to wake up and note this unfair prejudice before it gets out of control.

Anonymous said...

As a nurse and as a mother of a son who has schizophrenia I concur with your comments. As a society and individually need to be more proactive in our approach with those who are explicitly or implicitly are showing signs of mental illness as our family did with our son..pushing through closed doors, not giving up until he got the help he needed. Was he angry with us..of course..but now he is a functioning member of our family and society. We have a moral obligation to him and he to us to be as healthy mentally, physically etc as we can be for each other.

Anonymous said...

I am writing today to thank JMirisola for a terrific point on point post to this tragic situation.I am widowed & my twin sons who have schizo-affective disorder live with me. One has great care thru the Va in Augusta Georgia. My other son can hardly find a doctor who will or knows how to treat him here in South Carolina.. There are no services here, no respite care.. I haven't had a vacation in fifteen years.. No health care service is trained or wants to be part of respite for the mentally ill.I can't afford to move from here.. don't know where I would go.. Only about five states get a "C" rating from Nami.. the rest are Ds or Fs. I have been a member of NAMI in the past but I'm sad to say I think the issue of help for our loved ones & family care is being over looked.. I have people coming to me & asking me how to find help here for their family.. How sad is that?? The hospital here in Aiken told me my son would never be allowed back there because he ended up in the emergency room while in the psychiatric hospital because of their lack of knowledge in treating him.They can do that because they are privately owned.. I have sent three certified letters to the White House & have heard nothing. What will happen to my loved ones when I die ? I am 62 years old. They will be on the streets or in jail.. the hospitals for the mentally ill. I hope someone reads this & can actually give some positive insight into my situation. And, if I live long enough to find great respite care I would feel like God has finally answered my prayers.. I can't bring myself to go to the local Nami meeting here & disappoint these people more than they already are.. Where are the answers to be found??

Anonymous said...

As a resident of Newtown CT and someone with a mentally ill family member, I must weigh in. The mental health system is so broken as we are fighting to get our loved one help, yet denied repeatedly as she is an adult refusing meds, treatment and support. I know all too well what can happen when help is not sought, or received. Our hands our tied, and her behavior, unvetted is escalating. Did Lanza's family try to get him help and was denied? I don't know. But I am trying, and yet failing time and time again and am very, very afraid.

Anonymous said...

I am torn here. I live with Bipolar disorder, go every week to CBT therapy sessions and am on a good cocktail of meds. There are times when I have a mood shift and my rage is so intense (often for no good reason) that I scare myself (as well as the dogs and people around me) I am a successful elementary school teacher and have no record or in patient stays. However, I do believe people with mental illness including myself are capable of 'losing their minds' or 'losing control' and causing harm more than folks who don't have mental illness. I think that if mental illness is a factor in a violent situation it does need to be discussed. It can raise awareness of just how tough it can be to live with a disorder.

Laura Leigh said...

What is really pathetic is so many people obsessing about the stigma caused to themselves by mass shootings. How self-centered is that? The tragedy people is that 13 of your fellow human beings died at the hands of an individual with a serious mental illness and their deaths were absolutely preventable. The shooter had untreated paranoid psychosis and a history of violence, both of which are known risk factors for future violence. I would hope that the writer of this article, NAMI Executive Director Michael J. Fitzpatrick knows this, and my questions to him are: Why don't you write an article explaining how the mental health system failed the Navy Yard shooter with paranoid schizophrenia and his 12 victims and their loved ones? It is NAMI's mandate and I'm sure you have some thoughts on this. Then tell us what changes in the system NAMI and all of us should advocate for to prevent such tragedies in the future. For those self-centered people who want to focus on the stigma to themselves instead of on the deaths of others, here's a thought: The best way to end the stigma caused by mass shootings by a person with a mental illness is to prevent them from happening in the first place. And we do know how to prevent them: interventions under the law that help the person receive appropriate treatment at the first signs of risk of violence before they become a danger to self or others. The Navy Yard shooter was not evil; he had untreated severe mental illness. He was one of us. Why in God's name did we not help him?

Anonymous said...

To those (I saw one or two) who would use the percentage of mentally ill inmates as an indicator of mentally ill people being more violent -- I'd like to see the number on mentally ill inmates that were diagnosed PRIOR to their conviction. I say that because a former psychiatrist of mine who once worked in the prison system said that prison *creates* mental illness in people that did not already have it (especially solitary confinement). So, to go back and say that mental illness caused a problem, when many cases mental illness was diagnosed after the fact, doesn't make sense. It's also easy to say "they had to be crazy already to do something like that" when the person had never previously seen a doctor.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, I appreciate the article and the blog and its comments.

About eight years ago I found the NAMI Family to Family Support group, which was extremely helpful to me since I was needing to learn what to do to be most helpful to myself and my adult son diagnozed with schizoaffective disorder.

Since then I have enrolled in and completed the Family to Family training which is offered free to
the community by the local NAMI affiliates. There we learned in detail the latest and most important facts surround persons and families dealing with mental illness, and how best to stay focused, to intervene where possible, and how to help each
other. The NAMI Family to Family class is currently recognized as a national best practice by Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices
.

After learning how to do better, I have found it helpful to help others by volunteering at my local
NAMI affiliate. Also I have found it effective to advocate politically ... write letters to
representatives who care and visit them to share your story. We can help to educate our community including its health care and law enforcement workers.

I have been most encouraged to witness at the NAMI national and local conventions the outstanding majority of thousands of attendees who are persons diagnosed with mental illness in various states of recovery and are diligently seeking ways to share and help themselves and others do well in their lives by giving time and energy to build each other up.

When we know better we have a better opportunity to unite and do better.

Anonymous said...

Not only do many people feel that those of us with mental disorders are criminals in waiting, but they also believe that our mental illness is a personality flaw that we could "get over" if we would "stop being whiny victims." Why "healthy" people feel superior to those with a mental illness is beyond me. I don't feel superior to a cancer patient. Why are they treated with more respect? My illness has a higher mortality rate (due to suicides, medication overdoses, drug allergies, etc.) than some forms of cancer, and even the cancer patients get to maintain a constant sense of self and surroundings.

Anonymous said...

Stigma or not, the mentally ill are not getting adequate treatment in our country--that is the real message of the shootings by mentally ill.

Anonymous said...

If you're thinking of "coming out" about your mental illness, my advice is definitely "no". It won't help you, it will hurt you. I am nearing retirement from a great career and am at the point that I can say, "Look, I've come through!" Was hospitalized once as a young man, and haven't missed a dose of neuroleptics in the past forty years, and have stayed healthy and never been rehospitalized. Stigma is real and it could ruin you if you disclose! That's my two cents.

Anonymous said...

I have 2 children diagnosed bi polar and the saddest thing to me is that for those without insurance or excellent paying jobs receiving the help needed is almost impossible. Drug companies who make the drugs to help with these illnesses are withdrawing their assistance to those who are in desperate need of medication but can not afford. It is not always unwillingness to take medication but often the inability to get the medication though they work and do what they can it seeems hopeless for them to get medication that is so needed.

Melinda R said...

I have bipolar 1...this is the worst of the bipolar that you can have....now with that said. I WOULD NEVER SHOOT NO ONE FOR NO REASON, THAT I CAN AND WILL PROMISE!!!!! I am not a killer in way, shape, shape or form. I would kill myself first because I would not be able to live with myself if I kill another person. Just because I have a mentall illness doesn't mean I don't have a conscious.
The only way I would or even be able to KILL someone would be to SAVE SAVE ANOTHER LIFE!!!! Depending on the situation if I shoot to harm or to kill.
One last thing:
I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT GUNS KILL PEOPLE, PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE WITH THE GUNS. AS FOR THE CHILDREN THEY GET THEM AT THE HANDS OF ADULTS THAT DONT PROPERLY SECURE THEIR GUNS.

Anonymous said...

The Poroblem is larger than you imagine. The VA is the only enity that can find a Veteran " incompetent" Administrativly. This is used to deny Veterans their second amendment rights without the same due process that all other US citizens are allowed. People like the ACLU and others have allowed this to happen because they are for removing all private ownership of guns. The VA readly admits that they have a different definition of what it means to be incompetent than say the SSA.( FYI a person can be found incompetent by the VA and at the same time found competent by a SSA law judge. They are still barred from ownership because the va says tittle 38 gives us that authority) also did you know the Sen. Feinstein has said on the Sen. floor that all Veterans are mentally Ill and therefore should be denied access to guns. Also on a testimony before the House A VA representative has said that other "Legal Authorities" have the ability to find a person incompetent by administrative personel.

Theresa C. said...

Melinda R., Thank you for speaking for us who also have bipolar I yet I believe as you do. I am no different from anyone else and why should my 2nd amendment rights be denied because of a disability? I also live in a state that permits concealed carry. Again, can my disability be used as a reason to deny me a permit if I wanted one? I have operated and owned firearms for most of my adult life and was taught as part of growing up how to handle them safely. I always enjoy just going to the range and target shooting. I have kept firearms locked up securely with additional locks on the triggers. I never associate a gun with killing and death. Even when I was at a bottomless depression and I truly was suicidal at that point, it never occurred to me to use one of the firearms on myself and I reached the rages of which Anonymous speaks. But I never even thought to ever reach for or go for some sort of object or weapon to hurt anything or anyone. Blame it on my "usually laying dormant" catholic upbringing.

Theresa C. said...

To Anonymous September 26, 2013 2:09pm

Word of Help: The RAGES. They can be treated. They are not Normal. The cocktail CAN be adjusted to help. Add or adjust the right ingredient-all better. I had them. Bad, Very Very Very Bad. Let me know if you nned help.

Anonymous said...

I am like all the rest of you who cringe everytime a mentally ill person reacts violently in the news. In the past I had the same wrong ideas that alot of people did. Like society, I believed that only weak people couldn't control or manage what is was in their minds. Yes, even I had the stigma. My psychiatrist once told me that my illness was just a disease like diabetes. You have to continualy keep it in check and take your medicine. He was right. I thought to myself, if it is just a disease why do I have to feel ashamed to mention it to anyone. I have told some that I have this illness. However, there are a lot times I do not because I just don't have the energy to deal with someone else. If you have a mental illness you know that sometimes it takes all of your energy to get, not only through the hard times, be even day to day things. It is not a disease for the weak. So if you are thinking, " I am weak" remember you are strong because you are managing this when others would not be able to. You also continuely have some good clear times only to fall back into the same hole. While it is frustrating, it takes a lot of strength and endurance to keep on going. I am tired and I may have rambled on not making any since, I am sure. But I hope I have made some kind of contribution to the group.

Anonymous said...

I am like all the rest of you who cringe everytime a mentally ill person reacts violently in the news. In the past I had the same wrong ideas that alot of people did. Like society, I believed that only weak people couldn't control or manage what is was in their minds. Yes, even I had the stigma. My psychiatrist once told me that my illness was just a disease like diabetes. You have to continualy keep it in check and take your medicine. He was right. I thought to myself, if it is just a disease why do I have to feel ashamed to mention it to anyone. I have told some that I have this illness. Sometimes I just can't deal with people. If you have a mental illness you know that sometimes it takes alot of energy to get, not only through the hard times, be even day to day things. It is not a disease for the weak. So if you are thinking, " I am weak" remember you are strong because you are managing this when others would not be able to. You also continuely have some good clear times only to fall back into the same hole. That takes a lot of strength and endurance. I am tired and I may have rambled on not making any since. But I hope I have made some kind of contribution to the group.