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Stop Scapegoating The Mentally Ill

When I think about the social issues surrounding paranoid schizophrenia, and mental illness in general, it makes my mind swirl. There really are no easy answers to the problems that plague our society.

For instance, people are screaming and fighting to get background checks for firearms in order to prevent people with a history of mental illness from owning a gun. I am all for strict laws regarding gun ownership – in fact, I’m so heartsick and shocked by gun violence that I think many kinds of guns should be illegal. Who am I kidding? I think it should be harder to get a gun than a driver’s license. In fact, I think it should be more difficult than a college degree.

At any rate, I have paranoid schizophrenia and I have no problem giving up the right to own a gun. I’m not worried about losing that constitutional right. The problem is, in a recent Newsweek article studies show that even if severe mental illnesses were cured, violence would only go down by about 4%. The mentally ill are not responsible for most of the gun violence in our country. If people think background checks are the answer to mass shootings, they really need to look at the statistics and accept that mental illness can’t legitimately be blamed for gun violence. The mentally ill are an easy target, a scapegoat, for a much more unpopular truth – easy access to firearms equals more shootings.

It makes me feel frustrated and down that so many people honestly believe that most mass shootings and the majority of incidents of gun violence are committed by the mentally ill. I feel like those of us who are advocates for the mentally ill are not making any headway when the political debates mostly consist of arguments over more background checks.

We need to widen the debate. We need to move away from the easy answers and look at the tough stuff.  While taking a break from writing and looking for more supporting evidence, I came across this article .

If you read the article I just linked to it says exactly what I am saying only with better research.  The authors come to very similar conclusions and even use similar language like “scapegoating the mentally ill” to present their  findings.

I am thankful that there are people out there facing the truth head on. I know it would be a nice little package to wrap gun violence in if we could just blame the mentally ill, but the statistics simply do not support that nice tidy little package.

If we want to stop mass shootings, and I assume every reasonable person does, we need to look at the hard facts, and face the difficult choices. The truth is slowly coming out, and with that truth we need to let go of the old worn out stereotypes and scapegoats.

Just before posting this, I found the best video I have ever seen on the issue of mental health in this country and it actually addresses all of the issues I just wrote about and more. The video was done by none other than the comedian, John Oliver.  Watch it, you won’t be sorry.

Gun and bullets photo available from Shutterstock

Stop Scapegoating The Mentally Ill

Rebecca Chamaa

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APA Reference
Chamaa, R. (2015). Stop Scapegoating The Mentally Ill. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
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