Stop blaming mental illness

By Thunderword Staff

Mental illness can't be blamed for everything.

Mental health is a topic that is typically avoided unless abso- lutely necessary, having too many connected issues and stigma to be openly discussed.

In recent years, the mental health crisis has been the easy answer to the hard questions, often being held up as the root of all problems. The opioid crisis, homelessness, and violent crime are all issues that have been attributed to mental illness. Howev- er, the majority of this blame is inaccurate, misrepresenting the one in five Americans who struggle with their mental health. The opioid crisis has been linked to mental health as sub- stance abuse is a mental disorder. Opioid Misuse Disorder effects 2.1 million Americans, yet is rarely discussed. Of those diagnosed with Opioid Misuse Disorder, only one in five gets treatment. However, this disorder is not the cause of opioid abuse, which is at least partly the effect of the predatory practic- es of the pharmaceutical industry.
It is unrealistic to blame all violence and crime on mental illness. While some conditions do have more violent tendencies, the majority of those dealing with a mental illness are not vio- lent, and with the proper support, live fairly normal lives. Only 3 to 5 percent of all crime is committed by people with mental illnesses, the majority of violence being perpetrated by mentally healthy individuals.

The misconception that mental health is the root of violence has often been pushed by pro-gun groups, who propose the rise of gun related violence to mental illness rather than an excess of weapons available.

Homelessness has also been credited to the mental health crisis, with up to 25 percent of all homeless persons having a se- vere mental illness, being a problem since the Reagan adminis- tration. But like the other issues listed above, not all people who struggle with mental health are homeless and greater support could have mitigated this situation.

Instead of putting more blame on these illnesses, it's time we change the way we think about our problems, along with increasing support for people with mental health problems in our communities.

Blaming a broad and diverse group of people for all our problems is irresponsible, inaccurate, and does not make any progress toward a solution. Because of the continued claim that drug abuse, homelessness, and violence is caused by mental illness, those who struggle with mental illness continue to face stigma. This stigma can negatively affect a person's self-esteem, impact relationships, and influence the decision of whether to get help.

Of the 44.7 million Americans with mental illnesses, only 19.2 million (43 percent) receive treatment. Adult women were more likely to receive treatment than men, but still less than half of women with mental illnesses will be treated. Common reasons people do not receive treatment is lack of access and cost of treatment.

While mental illness is related to these issues, people with these conditions are not the cause of all these problems, so it's time we stop treating them like they are. Until we begin doing more for understand people with mental health problems, this stigma will persist and nothing will change.

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