Guns and Crazies
The so-called sane frighten me. Again. This time it is the NRA which, after the incident at Newtown last month, believes that the problem is threefold: not enough guns, video games, and a lack of tracking of those of us with mental disorders.
If you want to hear my opinions on the first two, you will have to follow my Twitter account. The matter of the mentally ill is a bullet fired very close to home. The simple-minded think that marking us with our own special yellow stars solves the problem of Newtown. But it is based on misconceptions and wrong-headed. Let me explain why.
First, only 3% of the mentally ill actually commit violent crimes Only 3% of the sane do the same. So why single out people like me? I offer that the reason is the same as that which leads them to buy guns: they are afraid. I have to say that in all my years running support groups that I have only one person with a mental illness go off on me. He told me to fuck myself and gave me the finger as he walked out the door. I don’t find that that behavior merits stricter controls over the mentally ill, though I have wondered about some of the people who have appeared on television and Youtube videos.
The making of such a list implies that this fellow — and myself — are as dangerous as sex offenders. Just the level of stigma that I need, right? The last time I went on a killing spree — say, wait. I’ve never gone on a killing spree or even threatened one. Why is it that I have to be registered and Alex Jones doesn’t? Oh, I know. I have gone to a psychiatrist and sought help for my illness, something that Alex Jones has patently declared he will never do because he sees psychiatrists as just another kind of policeman.
I’m not too keen about putting my medical records in the hands of people who have no business knowing it. I take my meds, I attend support group meetings, and I see a therapist. My neighbors have never had a problem with me. The police have never paid me a visit to impose the infamous Five One Five Oh. Though I have gone public, I stand for the right of everyone with my condition to choose who gets to know what they live with. Gun dealers have no business knowing these facts of our lives when there is no clear danger to self or others.
And who can say that it will stop there? What will keep employers from scrying these files like they do for criminal records and sex offender statuses? Once you attach stigma to mental illness with a database, it will be misused to destroy lives.
Stigma has another grave effect. People who have a mental illness often don’t seek help because they don’t want a diagnosis that will brand them against good jobs, financial security, and simple social acceptance. Some with violent inclinations will go completely unnoticed by the system because they won’t seek help. A lot has been said about the Newtown shooter, but if he had a psychotic disorder, no one has come forward to confirm it. In the absence of this, how could we possibly track such people? And how will we get those influenced by Alex Jones — those with genuine psychiatric conditions — to get treatment?
As the statistics I have cited before indicate, having a mental illness is a poor predictor of violence. Drinking alcohol has a higher correlation with violence but when Tennessee legislators tried to bar gun stores in bars, the NRA cried “slippery slope” and talked them out of it. As I said, the so-called sane are making a mess of this by removing the focus from the real problem to an imaginary one.
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