Quote of the Day: Demonizing the Mentally Ill is Nuts Edition

“A national conversation about mental illness should . . . begin with a frank and open discussion of the stigma that causes so many to ignore symptoms and shy away from seeking treatment. Tying that discussion to the issue of gun violence serves to perpetuate the stigma by inferring that people who suffer from a mental disorder are prone to acts of mass violence. Such an inference is inaccurate, unfair and totally counterproductive.”
In our opinion: Keep the issues of gun violence and untreated mental illness separate [via deseretnews.com]

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

44 Responses to Quote of the Day: Demonizing the Mentally Ill is Nuts Edition

  1. avatarAndrew Snyder says:

    So demonizing people of the gun when some mental case shoots a bunch of people is OK, but the mental illness that actually caused the shooting is off limits because you might hurt feelings?

    Double standard much?

    • avatarmediocrates says:

      the answer is not to commit two wrongs, but to remove the stigmas that allow mental health issues to be addressed before people get hurt.

      • avatarBrian says:

        +200

      • avatarSAS 2008 says:

        While I agree that removing the stigma of mental health problems is a good idea, it is naïve to think this will solve the problem for some important types of mental illness.

        “Approximately 40% of people with schizophrenia are unable to understand that they have the disorder, because the part of the brain that is damaged by schizophrenia is also responsible for self-analysis.”
        http://www.schizophrenia.com/invol.html

        This problem of being unable to self analyze supports the idea that for this type of disorder an easier path to involuntary treatment of some type is the appropriate.

        Only a small percentage of schizophrenics are violent. But that small percentage have committed some horrific crimes. This includes, Jared Loughner.

        Demonizing the entire population for the acts of a very small percentage of population is the wrong thing to do no matter if the population is the mentally ill or gun owners.

    • avatarBlinkyPete says:

      True this, but Wayne kind of invited this dialog by suggesting we need a database of the mentally ill.

  2. avatarBill J. says:

    Forget about mental illness, even talking to a grief counselor can get you in trouble in Illinois:
    http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2013/06/chicago-veteran-has-antique-guns-confiscated-after-visit-to-grief-counselor-video/

  3. avatarDshim83 says:

    Is your choice of video for this article meant to imply something?

    There is no denying that Lanza was a troubled individual, with a cadre of mental health issues – however, there have been no studies which have shown people with mental illnesses as being more prone to violence; and in actuality, the studies which have examined the issue generally find that the mentally ill are more likely to be the victims of acts of violence and abuse than they are to perpetrate it. And we’re not just talking about depression here, we’re talking about aspergers, schizophrenia, and disassociative identity disorder as well.

    While I’m not saying, necessarily, that there shouldn’t be any restrictions on owning firearms by those who suffer from mental illness – the vast majority of mentally ill represent no risk to the general population, and thus there is no good argument on which to base the denial of their constitutional rights.

    If we are to bring the topic of gun rights into any national conversation on mental health, it must be limited only to those individuals who have been adjudicated mentally ill as either incompetent or as a danger to self and others. There is great risk in allowing the general public to further the perception that mental illness=dangerous individuals, because it simply fails to hold true to medical science.

    Finally, it is easy for the average person and certainly the average gun rights supporter to metaphorically throw the mentally ill “under the bus” with regard to their right to keep and bear arms. However, as the fact-based side of the debate – allowing erroneous restrictions on the mentally ill (that won’t make us safer) makes us no better than those who would support assault weapons bans (which won’t make us safer.)

    Either the facts back it up or they don’t, and regardless of popular wisdom, the facts are stacked on this one – and as is often the case, they aren’t on the side of “common sense.”

    • avatarNeil says:

      I think the idea is that, not all mentally ill people are predispositioned to murder, but if there’s someone who’s mentally ill and unstable who’s upset with the world, there’s less of a “stop button” to deter them from acting on their thoughts.

    • avatarAndrew Snyder says:

      I don’t think we are trying to throw the mentally ill under the buss, in fact I think most TTAGers have the opposite view. Most of us realize that there are so many mental illnesses out there now that it would be easy for some head shrink with an agenda to paint any one of us as mentally ill and use it to remove our guns.

      What we want is for people to stop blaming the guns for acts that are clearly more related to mental illness than the guns used. And of course we would like to see the senseless killing stop. In order to do that we need to have a long hard look at our mental health system and those who are in it; both the ill and the professional (in the case of fort hood that is literally both).

      There is a serious theme going here, in all of the recent mass shooting it has been clear that there was serious mental issues before the person went on the spree. And in many of those cases there were clear warning signs that mental health professionals either ignored or failed to properly convey to the right authority. The fort hood shooter was known by his fellow mental health professionals to be high risk, but it was brushed under the rug by superiors. The Gabby Giffords shooter was seeing a mental health professional before hand and the signs were clearly there but somehow missed. The Colorodo theater shooter flat out told a mental health professional he was going to go on a killing spree, she failed to get anyone to look into it other than having him removed from school. The Newtown shooter was heavily involved with mental health professionals, and though the info is being supressed in the media (because it runs counter to the ban guns meme) it is extreemly likely that one of them should have known. And I read somewhere that the california shooter was apperantly on steriods so he could effectivly carry 44 fully loaded 30rd magazines in a bag that was aperantly enchanted with the bottomless enchantment, and had some mental issues to boot. There is a patern here. Some changes need to be made, not with our second amendment rights, but with how we handle the mentally ill. The trick is doing it in such away that the majority you speak of who are more prone to being violated than violent do not have their rights trampled in the process.

      Note: I do know the names of the shooters listed above, but I believe a related issue is how te media sensationalizes these people, and so I will not give them the pleasure of speaking their names publicly.

      • avatarBlinkyPete says:

        I’m glad someone else if refusing to use the monster’s names. I do my best to ignore the names of mass murderers, and to memorize at least one victim’s name.

    • avatargej88 says:

      That’s assuming he acted alone, if it all. The media says Lanza did it alone, not any official source. That report was due to come out this month, now it won’t be until Sept. How does an autistic kid, who has been described as an ethical vegan, kill a bunch of kids? No, I’m not saying Obama. But paying 51 percent of 37K per month, 20K per month, in alamony is motive and taking out a class room makes a good red herring.

      • avatarRalph says:

        It was aliens, I tell you. Aliens from Uranus.

        • avatargej88 says:

          I was thinking Dad, or more accurately, someone hired by dad.

        • avatarBlinkyPete says:

          Just so I understand correctly, you’re saying that the father, in response to paying $240k or so in alimony, killed or caused the killing of his wife, one of his sons and 27 strangers, including 20 children? Please. Elaborate.

        • avatarWilliam says:

          You should always check your own first! Remember, alienation begins at home!

      • avatarBlinkyPete says:

        Um, wrong. The police said he acted alone. In fact, everyone said he acted alone. Zero people related to the investigation or any reliable source have said otherwise. The fact that the official report hasn’t come out yet means exactly nothing in that capacity.

        Also, what does autism, or more specifically, Asperger have to do with anything? By all accounts the killer had enthusiastically trained with guns for most of his teenage life. He was also apparently obsessed with mass murder. What makes you think that he’d be incapable of killing a bunch of terrified, defenseless children in an enclosed space?

        • avatargej88 says:

          about that:
          http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/342829#ixzz2KJ4Vd8pA

          http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/cbs-anchor-we-are-getting-big-stories-wrong-over-and-over-again_722331.html

          People with Asbergers often are very sensitive to sound, which is why my daugher doesn’t go to the range with the rest of us.

        • avatarBlinkyPete says:

          Your first link refers to warrants remaining sealed on February 5. They were released at the end of March. The DA in the article said he didn’t rule out additional suspects, but he never said there were any, nor did he say in what capacity they could be suspects – it could have simply been someone Lanza communicated with on an internet forum. Of course, that doesn’t matter, because like I said, three minutes of research (roughly what it took me) would have shown you that your information is out dated, and was never really relevant to begin with.

          The second link is someone in the press admitting they make mistakes. Like, all the time. Duh. Know where the vast body of sources for Sandy Hook conspiracy bullshit comes from? Errors made by various new organizations vying for exclusive stories about murdered children. That doesn’t support your assertion.

          Finally – “often” isn’t always, and like I’ve already said, the killer had a well documented history of firearms use. Did he spend his life going to firing ranges and then suddenly develop sensitivity when he stepped into that school?

  4. avatarrab says:

    The vast majority of people who are mentally ill are not violent. However, the vast majority of mass killers are mentally ill.

    • avatar505markf says:

      +1. You got me thinking. Try this one on: The vast majority of gun owners are not violent (or criminals). However, almost all violent gun crimes are performed by gun owners (primarily those who possess them illegally). I think gun owners as well as the mentally ill are getting stigmatized.

      Mass shootings seem, at least lately, to be the exclusive purview of people who are mentally ill. But they are outliers. Statistically speaking, very few people are victims of a mass shooting. Gun violence, as in gang violence in Chicago or Camden, belongs squarely on the punks, who would probably pass mental health screenings. They aren’t crazy but are very dangerous. Even the shooter in Norway suffered no mental illness though all of us would call him bat shit crazy.

      From a civil rights perspective, the mentally ill are a soft target. Consider that in a typical lifespan of an American, about 1 in 3 of us will suffer clinical depression. The mentally ill are not the whole problem any more than the gun is the problem.

      This is actually a very, very hard problem to solve while protecting peoples’ rights.

      • avatarDan says:

        “This is actually a very, very hard problem to solve while protecting peoples’ rights.”

        The underlying assumption that individual problems are something for other people [meaning government authority, comply or die] to identify and solve is the end of all people’s rights.

        Sociopaths entering the public record in a blaze of carnage are the statistically insignificant exception who probably can’t be stopped. But the rest of them have long records of lesser criminal aggression leading up to their big day. Coming down hard on the first acts would prevent a lot of followups without getting into ugly prior restraint problems.

  5. avatargreat unknown says:

    So according to the Deseret News, mental problems should in no way disqualify a person from his 2A rights. That seems to be what they’re saying. After all, the only alternative is that they are trying to destroy the 2A, and since they are intellectually honest, intelligent, journalists, I would never accuse them of that.

  6. avatarDerrick Haman says:

    Oh so now we’ve gone from “Assault Rifle” to “Semi-Automatic Assault Rifle”. At least they’re calling it a semi-auto now, and not saying it sprays bullets everywhere.

  7. avatarGS650G says:

    it’s interesting that some propose addressing issues with mental illness by disarming the entire country.

  8. avatarJoseph B Campbell says:

    If you can recently connect an individual with mental problems to a heinous crime, we are not demonizing mental health, the individual already did that for you. These crimes will continue until we realize these individuals are going to do these crimes ad naseum until they are stopped.

  9. avatarrtempleton says:

    Wow, the first article Robert posts in half a year that I agree with 100%.

    The other issue is that tying mental health info from doctors to a government agency should be patently clear after the NSA scandal. All of the alphabet soup police organizations–NSA, CIA, FBI, ATF, DEA, DHS–should not have access to ANY medical data. We passed a law, HIPAA, specifically to protect patient rights. Rolling them back in the guise of “protecting us from dangerous people with guns!” is naive and stupid. You give these agencies access to medical data, and they will use it to track people.

    Explained this way, most party-line democrats I’ve talked to have been forced go agree that yes, it’s probably a good thing that terrible background check bill failed. And that was BEFORE the NSA whistleblower.

  10. avatarSaul Feldstein says:

    Still no pics/video of Adam Lanza entering Sandy Hook, and the CT governor just sealed all the evidence from the scene. Of course, questioning the offical account is tin foil hat stuff.

    • avatarFred says:

      They’re trying to go the route of China as well and bulldoze and bury the old school and build another one to the tune of 40-60 million dollars while again declining to pay for armed guards in the elementary schools, which would have cost about $700,000.

    • avatarBlinkyPete says:

      Questioning? No.

      Developing your own hypothesis that only takes into account erroneous statements made in the immediate hours after the event, misinformation and misinterpretations, and which conveniently aligns with your existing personal and political beliefs? Yep. That’s tinfoil hat stuff.

      Do you have a video of your house being built? Cuz if you don’t it doesn’t exist.

  11. avatarChuckN says:

    I wonder how this will play out when obamacare is fully
    implemented and jurisdiction is giving to the IRS;
    especially since they’ve openly admitted to targeting
    political opponents like those that believe in the
    Bill of Rights?

  12. avatarBlinkyPete says:

    The issue here is the issue of blame. When the MSM jumps on the anti-gun hysteria bandwagon, the NRA counters by jumping on the anti-mental illness bandwagon.

    Here’s a thought – it’s really easy to look back at someone who just murdered 27 people, including his own mother and 20 elementary school children, and say “yeah, he was mentally ill. How could they not tell that he was going to do this?”

    Here’s how: there are upwards of 60 million people in the US alone that fall under this distinction. If you have OCD or ADD, you meet the criteria. Furthermore, there are plenty of odd, withdrawn people out there. Are we going to stigmatize all of them based on what roughly 1 in 10 to 20 million people do?

    The monster at Sandy Hook didn’t do what he did because he was mentally ill. He didn’t do it because he had access to guns, and he didn’t do it because of video games or any other external factors. He did it because he was evil.

    Evil is the problem, and there are very, very few solutions to evil. The truth is that it wasn’t possible to accurately, reliably predict what this monster was going to do, and if somehow we had prevented him from getting guns he would have employed another means to murder people. That lack of predictability and lack of a clear solution (and the fact that the school’s newly installed security measures did nothing to prevent this) makes people uncomfortable and frightened. People that are uncomfortable and frightened tend to buy into ‘solutions’ wherever they come from, be it gun control from the left or mental illness control from the right.

    It’s funny; when a tornado kills a bunch of innocent people, or an auto-accident does the same we accept it, grieve and move on, and rarely let blame fall on anyone but the person genuinely responsible (in the case of auto-accidents). If the same involves a gun, or an illegal immigrant say, or a muslim, suddenly it’s all part of a bigger issue. Maybe we all just need to stop looking for people to blame.

    • avatarFred says:

      We all want something to point to in order to set ourselves apart, to distance ourselves from the event in an attempt to establish we are not dangerous ourselves. People look to different factors for that, those that don’t own guns use the guns as the line, “I don’t own guns so I could never do this so I am not like that and am no threat”. For others it’s mental illness, “I don’t have a mental illness so I’m not dangerous so don’t take my rights”. For some it’s videogames. The message is always, “see, I’m not the problem so go limit something I don’t care about”. In the case of mass shootings 99% of the population is not like the one in the news. For weeks after their character is dissected but they never simply state the real issue, malicious intent based in evil. If you don’t address that malicious intent you can do nothing against the evil brewing.

      I agree with the article that demonizing mental health issues only makes things worse as people will not seek help, but I don’t see where the attack on gun rights comes in. By assumption it can be said by saying “lay off mental illness” they mean “lay into gun rights”, but I don’t see that. It’s terrible that we as gun owners don’t feel safe or comfortable sharing we actually own guns to strangers, but it’s worse that someone doesn’t feel safe or comfortable sharing they have a serious problem and need help. Lets just stick to demonizing the demons.

      • avatarBlinkyPete says:

        We all want something to point to in order to set ourselves apart, to distance ourselves from the event in an attempt to establish we are not dangerous ourselves.

        Brilliantly put.

  13. avatarFug says:

    I used to work for a company that provides residential and vocational services for people with a wide variety of conditions and disorders including everything you’ve heard of and many things you have definitely not heard of. This company provides services all over the United States and within the state of Israel.

    To me it is extremely surprising that Adam Lanza was not receiving treatment from some place like the one where I worked. He would have had 24 hour supervision and a behavior plan to help him cope with his issues, his family could have gone on about their lives and still seen him regularly. He could still be alive and thriving today. It is appalling that his mother allegedly purchased him firearms and gave him access to even more, given what his own family said about his regular outbursts.

    It is not fair to say that mentally ill or autistic people are prone to mass violence. But they are prone to getting in situations they don’t understand where they lash out. I have seen them seek revenge by lying to police over minor slights and I have seen nonverbal individuals who are often very sweet assault and seriously injure someone. Some people with severe mental handicaps require 24 hour supervision and that supervision is available. If you cannot afford it all you have to do is declare your relative a ward of the state. Why did this not happen with Adam Lanza? Who dropped the ball and when? Why does the media not care about this? It does not make any sense given the apparent wealth of his family.

    • avatarAPBTFan says:

      Great points all.

      Unfortunately the “ward of the State” route is one that is continually bereft of funds because every single damn time lawmakers want to cut funds mental health is almost always the first to get ganked. State mental hospitals are usually nothing more than a warehouse for those most in need.

  14. avatarWilliam says:

    There they go with the “mental illness” again. So their MINDS are ill? Please show me where their MINDS are, and let’s go have a look and see those minds look “ill”!

  15. avatarMark N. says:

    The first issue is that the phrase “mentally ill” is essentially meaningless. There are certainly some conditions that should lead to a disqualification of ownership, but the vast majority should not. Merely because someone takes an antidepressant or antianxiety medication prescribed by the family doctor should never be enough–but recent events have shown that police will tend to overreact, such as in the linked case above or the case in New York. Yet there are any number of seriously dangerous sociopaths who fall through the cracks. That is why the standard “danger to himself or others” has such utility, as it eliminates those who aren’t imminently suicidal or homicidal. And some governmental agency combing through private psychiatric records by is not going to identify those people; it will invariably “err” on the side of confiscation–better safe than sorry. So there has to be some nexus between mental health evaluation and gun ownership, but only to the extent necessary to set an objective standard that protects individual civil rights. The bias must be set in favor of freedom.

  16. “In our opinion: Keep the issues of gun violence and untreated mental illness separate [via deseretnews.com]”

    That really is crazy, because the mass shootings everyone is troubled about are manifestly the work of the violently insane. It is logic chopping and misdirection to point out that most mentally ill people are not dangerous, for there is that subset that is very dangerous.

    We no longer lock up as many criminally insane people as we once did, for the feeling arose that they needed kinder and gentler treatment than that, but then we went too far in the other direction. Now it is the object of many therapists to keep patients out of commitment and adjudication situations, but sometimes a strong intervention is what best serves the safety of society, and also the safety of the violently disturbed individual.

  17. avatarDave says:

    The NY Safe Act perfectly exemplifies the uneducated, politicized response of bureaucrats and politicians to DO SOMETHING. In one fell swoop Governor Cuomo and his enablers managed to trample the rights of both gun owners and psychiatric patients without one shred of evidence that these measures will work.

  18. avatarrhampton says:

    My take on mental illness (and intoxication):

    If your condition (or the medications you take) prevents you from legally operating a vehicle or heavy machinery, then it ought to apply to firearms as well (and I suspect it does for some states). Otherwise, drive, drill, shoot, etc. responsibly.

    Now if an individual makes specific threats of violence, there should be a process to issue a protective order (details tailored to the threats made, including the possibility of surrendering all weapons) no matter their mental state.

    • avatarAPBTFan says:

      What in the hell made you mention intoxication in the same sentence as mental health medication?

      Are you a “I took prozac once” kind of know it all or have you depended on such medications long term to be healthy? What exactly is your base of knowledge to equate meds with being drunk?

  19. avatarAPBTFan says:

    If there’s a large minority in this nation still subject to ridiculous misunderstanding, misinformation, stupid stereotypes and blatant bias it is those with mental health issues. Mental health needs a campaign on the level of the Komen group. Something like that would benefit us all.

    I love how the PC commandos come out in full force if there is some perceived slight or stereotype against an ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation but when it comes to stereotypes of mental health it’s nothing but crickets…

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