With the recent horrific events, there have been some very stigmatizing thoughts and words expressed about those of us with mental illness and the ‘risk’ we pose.
We do not pose a risk to others
Firstly I want to say how incredibly sorry I am to the families, friends and loved ones of those who have been hurt or killed in these events, I cannot imagine what they are going through and my thoughts are truly with all who have been impacted.
This article is not about the people who have spoken out and said that we with mental illness are to be feared and locked away, which is why I will not include their exact statements or mention their names; it’s about us, the mental health community, and us raising our voices to say that this is NOT acceptable. We are NOT violent, we are NOT dangerous, we are NOT a risk to others.
Do not tar everyone with mental illness with the same brush
While we do not know the mental health history of the people who committed these crimes, there is a chance that they do have a mental illness, however even if this is the case, this does not mean that all people with mental illnesses are a risk to others; just the same way as someone who commits a crime and does not have a mental illness, does not therefore mean that all people out there without mental illnesses are a risk to others. Everybody is individual and we cannot tar everyone with the same brush.
While there may be a very small minority of people with mental illness who may be inclined towards violent crime because of their mental illness, there is also a small minority of people without mental illness who may be inclined to hurt others.
Evidence shows we are more likely to be a victim than a perpetrator
In fact there is evidence to show that the vast majority of violent crimes are committed by those without a mental illness. The statistics show that this has been a consistent pattern and that numbers of people with mental illness committing violent crimes has not risen since the 1990s.
There is plenty of solid evidence to suggest that those with a mental illness are far more likely to hurt themselves than others, and that we are far more likely to be the victim of violent crime because of our vulnerability rather than the perpetrator.
If you would like to read more in-depth about the numerous studies, research and statistics done on the matter, there are plenty to be found online and I have included a few useful links in the references section at the end of this post.
Misinformation is highly damaging
This sort of misinformation about those of us with mental illness being violent perpetuates stigma and can be extremely hurtful to the community; it can also be incredibly harmful to the work being done by others to raise awareness and reduce stigma, to the understanding that many people are trying to build around mental illness, to people’s personal mental health and in leading to people not reaching out or speaking out about their mental illness for fear of being judged.
As a community, some of us are coming together to speak out against this stigma. You can find plenty of us speaking out on social media to say that we are NOT violent, that we are lovely, beautiful, caring, kind people who are just trying to get on with ours lives in the best way that we can while dealing with some really hard symptoms. We deserve understanding, respect and compassion just as much as anyone else does.
We are the faces of mental illness
Some lovely people agreed to be part of this, to be part of showing the real face of mental illness, I very much appreciate them being willing to join me in speaking up.
“Hi, I’m Julie 54. I’ve been a single Mum for 22years and I have 5 grown-up children and 8 grandchildren. I try to be a good and honest person to everyone I meet. Ive been in and out of the MH system for many years more than I care to remember. I was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia many years ago. I hear voices on a daily basis. I have harmed myself but I have never harmed anyone else and I never would.”
You can find the lovely Julie on twitter under the handle @Julieb09544735
“Hello! My name is Nicole Carman, and I live with bipolar disorder and anxiety. I was originally diagnosed with depression in 2009 or 2010 but later diagnosed with bipolar II disorder in 2018. As someone who has been living and struggling with severe depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder for ten years, I have never had a homicidal thought. I have never wanted to harm another human being. I have, however, had countless thoughts of self-harm and suicidal thoughts. The fact that so many people automatically assume horrible crimes, like the recent El Paso shooting, are committed by someone who is mentally ill, is incredibly damaging and stigmatizing. A person who is living with a mental illness is much more likely to hurt themselves than hurt someone else. Many people who live with mental illness are incredibly creative, sensitive, and empathetic. I created the Mental Health Awareness Project to help debunk this and other myths and stigmas about those living with mental illness. I have a mental health blog called Navigating Darkness, which can be found at navigatingdarkness.com. The Mental Health Awareness Project’s website is themhap.com. I can always be found on Twitter, as well — @itsnicolecarman.”
“I’ve had on and off depression from the age of 16. I also have agoraphobia ( fear of crowds) so that mixed with anxiety made socializing tough. Then when around my 20’s I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Every day has been a battle but I’m hanging on. I’ve always been able to stand up again no matter how tough things get and no matter my mental state I’ll always help my friends and family. Mental health recognition is getting better, we’ve definitely come a long way but it is still very lacking in the UK. But to all those struggling with any sort of problems always remember you matter and you’re loved.”
You can find Craig over on twitter @CraigFalconer7.
“I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression and severe anxiety approximately 2 years ago after becoming physically totally and permanently disabled several years ago. My mental illness makes me withdraw into myself, not wanting to socialise or communicate with others and becoming engrossed in my own thoughts. I’ve been happily married for 37 years, have 4 grown children and 3 grandsons that I adore. My mental illness doesn’t make me any type of danger to others. If I am suffering from a severe episode of depression or anxiety I withdraw into myself. The only indication anyone has is that I become very quiet and want my own space.”
You can find the funny, wonderful and kind Bill over on twitter at @Bit_Bionic_Bill
“Hi! My name is Anja Burcak. I am a mental health blogger. Halfway through college, in the summer after my sophomore year, I became severely depressed. I went to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with depression. I took time off from college. By the end of 2015, it was clear that I was becoming manic. In 2016, I was hospitalized twice for my manic episode. Now, I am diagnosed with Bipolar 1. I am on medications. I know that I need them and I am not ashamed to take them. Pill-shaming is nonsense! Today, I use various platforms (blog, podcasts, vlogging, articles, drawings) to share my story, educate others, and fight the stigma! I am NOT my mental illness. I have many roles. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a girlfriend, an artist, a writer, a dancer, an advocate, & many other things. I am NOT dangerous.”
You can find the lovely and talented Anja over on twitter at @CalculatingMind. You should also check out the blog she wrote about this subject which is wonderfully written at https://calculatingmind.wordpress.com/2019/08/05/why-blaming-mental-illness-wont-stop-mass-shootings/ Her blog, in general, is well worth a read.
“Hi I’m Cara. I have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed four years ago, though it was a long time coming.One of the biggest misconceptions around this illness is that it involves rapid and continuous mood swings. I have a job, a partner and a house. Yes, there are times when I am depressed and there are times when I am manic, but it is not constant and there is respite in between. I’ve also struggled with anorexia on and off for most of my life and recently suffered a relapse. It is nothing to do with vanity and everything to do with coping with difficult thoughts and emotions. I am many things outside of my mental illness. I love travelling, animals, writing and crafting. I have the best social circle I could wish for. Mental illness is a part of me but it isn’t all of me.”
The talented and thoughtful Cara did some amazing work of raising awareness by starting a now wide-spread hashtag about this matter, talking about how we are not dangerous!
“I started the #IAmNotDangerous hashtag because I was angry that following the mass shootings in America last week, we were again seeing this violence blamed on mental illness in the media. We have to battle against so much when we have difficulties with mental health, and one of those things should not be societies perception that we are dangerous. I make it my mission in life to stand up against stigma and this hashtag was just one way of doing that.”
You can find more of Cara’s amazing work over on her blog caras-corner.com and you can find her over on twitter @CaraLisette.
“I was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression during my second year of my Bachelor’s degree. I’ve always found myself acting and behaving differently to others for years before. When at Uni I was criticised for not wanting to socialize and go out. More and more I stayed away from everyone and everything until I couldn’t cope and my self-isolation led to self-harm. I ended up seeing the doctor and I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I still struggle to make and maintain friendships and relationships in person, but despite all of that, I still continued with my education. I have 3 degrees, my bachelors, a masters in MA History of Warfare and even a teaching degree in PGCE Secondary History. I’ve still managed to carve a career as a teacher and now I’m blogging and advocating Mental Health. Not once have I personally felt that I would hurt another person, or even take another person’s life. My mental health is my problem, I am not dangerous, I am not a victim, and no matter what I will do my best to survive.”
You can find the lovely Leo over on twitter @TheAnxiousTeac2 and you can find more of her beautiful writing and words on her own blog theanxiousteachtwo.home.blog
“I am Nicole. I am a mother, a writer, a caregiver, a friend. I am not a murderer. 12 years ago, I was diagnosed Bipolar 2. It explained the unrelenting depression and the erratic mood swings. Finally, there were some solutions. Medication and therapy have made a big difference. My life is much more stable now. But even at my untreated worst, I was never violent. I may hurt myself, but never the people around me. I am still the same loving person who cared for her mother, grandmother and aunt. The same person who stayed up to talk to a suicidal friend. Mental illness does not make me a monster. Get to know me. Lose the labels.”
You can find this wonderful woman over on twitter @ladyhawke70x7, and you can find more of her writing at her own blog nicolemackey.com
“I’ve lived with symptoms of depression and anxiety since the age of 15, finally getting diagnosed at 18. I’m a business owner, a book lover, hamster mumma, I’m so much more than any illness.”
You can find this wonderful lady over on twitter @chloemetzger
“My name is Ida Väisänen. As a child, I dreamt of being a journalist. I was the only second-language student to have been accepted on my journalism training course in the school’s 30-year history. I began my first job two weeks after graduation. The world was at my feet. Less than a year into my post I became ill with severe depression. This took me to attempt suicide. I was hospitalised for several months and I lost my job. All of a sudden everything I had worked for was gone. All of this has now changed me fundamentally as a person. I tell about my experiences because what happened to me can happen to anyone and maybe in one small way I can prevent someone from going into that dark place I was in myself. Feel free to follow my journey on twitter @Idaisdepressed or my blog on aroundthewardin80days.com”
“I’m Peter, I have a diagnosis of depression and social anxiety disorder. I am passionate about changing viewpoints of mental illness in society and breaking the stigma we face. Outside of this I enjoy playing video games, listening to music and reading. What makes me ‘me’ is that I am inquisitive and passionate to learn new things, this year I’m travelling for the first time solo and challenging my anxiety more than ever. I love volunteering and meeting new people with similar interests and thanks to volunteering I’ve met the kindest people you could ever meet.”
You can find Peter over on twitter @pjshaw192 and you can check out his blog at pshaw192.wordpress.com
We as a mental health community stand strong and proud; we are not violent, we are not dangerous, we are not scary, we are not a risk and we do not deserve to be stigmatized. Thank you for reading, feel free to include your face of mental illness in the comments and get involved.
Time to Change, “Violence and Mental Health”, Retrieved August 2019 from https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/media-centre/responsible-reporting/violence-mental-health-problems
Danny Whiting, “Crime Victimisation: vulnerability increased after onset of mental illness”, Retrieved August 2019 from https://www.nationalelfservice.net/populations-and-settings/crime/crime-victimisation-vulnerability-increased-after-onset-of-mental-illness/
Carrie Barron M.D. , “Mental Illness Does Not Equal Dangerous, Mostly”, Retrieved August 2019 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-creativity-cure/201509/mental-illness-does-not-equal-dangerous-mostly
Mental Health Foundation, “Stigma and discrimination”, Retrieved August 2019 from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stigma-and-discrimination