by Karl Shallowhorn, HHS Senior Counselor
Webster. Newtown. Aurora.
These names are forever etched into our collective consciousness. These horrible tragedies have served to bring the controversial debate about gun control and mental health into the public forum. Unfortunately, they have also served to keep the public perception of mental illness stuck in the last century.
If you were to believe the media you would think that individuals living with mental illness present a high risk for carrying out violent crimes. But research shows that this is not true. Only about 5% of these crimes are committed by those living with brain disorders, but the stigma still affects millions. The advent of social media has served to be a “double-edged sword”. Some people use forums such as Facebook and Twitter to advance the cause of mental health while others spread misinformation.
So what can you do?
Every one of us can take the opportunity to educate others about the facts regarding mental illness. Here are just a few:
- One in five Americans lives with a diagnosable mental illness.
- Individuals with severe psychiatric disorders who were not taking medication were found to be 2.7 times more likely to be the victim of a violent crime (assault, rape, or mugging) than the general population.
- Stigma about mental disorders and discrimination against patients and families prevent people from seeking mental health care. Above all, our main message must be that with appropriate intervention and treatment, recovery is possible. It’s time to bring the public perception of those living with brain disorders into the 21st century
To find out more information about mental illness, please visit the mental health resources section of our blog.