PERSPECTIVE: America’s Mental Health Crisis Actually Has Nothing To Do With Guns
It’s time we were honest.
Mass shooters are not typically people experiencing a mental crisis. According to CBS News, just 8 percent of mass shooters were diagnosed with severe mental illnesses such as bipolar and schizophrenia. Some suffered from depression and anxiety, but that closely mirrored the general population. Yet, in the wake of another mass shooting, Texas’s conservative governor Greg Abbott called for more mental health resources.
According to Vox, Texas is experiencing a mental health crisis, with those reporting symptoms above the national average and those receiving care for their symptoms falling below the national average. Moreover, Abbott diverted $211 Million in mental health funding to border enforcement.
Therein lies the problem with mental health in America: divestment.
In Chicago, former mayor Rahm Emanuel made historical divestments in mental health by closing half of the cities’ mental health clinics. This divestment was seen firsthand when I was admitted to one of the few mental health clinics following a breakdown in 2020, and one of the workers said, “Maybe she’s dead” jokingly.
Having a mental health crisis during a global health crisis
It’s time we talk about it.
Alas, that was not the worst part of the hospitalization. The worst part came in simply trying to get hospitalized. At first, since I showed no physical symptoms of distress, it was treated as psychosomatic. In a moment of rage, I inflicted wounds upon my arms hoping that would show them that I needed care. While it worked out for me in the end, the thought of it now is sad.
This is the state of mental healthcare in America: poor.
If we invest in communities and not just in policing those communities, we have a better chance at getting a handle on the city’s and the country’s ongoing mental health crises.
Another incident I remember involved a close family member of mine who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar. After they went off their medication, they experienced a severe mental health episode, and police were called to their apartment. Fearing for their safety, I immediately went to intervene and ended up having to de-escalate the situation.
To me, this is sad – that someone with their own history of mental illness and no experience in the field could de-escalate better than four trained police officers. Really, this is the crux of the argument for defunding the police. If we invest in communities and not just in policing those communities, we have a better chance at getting a handle on the city’s and the country’s ongoing mental health crises.
What happened to Jordan Neely? America’s White Vigilantism problem.
White vigilantism is on the rise.
What if Jordan Neely had been invested in? Many rushed to bring up his fraught past as justification for his death, but they neglected to mention that Neely had untreated mental illness. Like Chicago, New York has a history of divesting in its people, and the Jordan Neely tragedy serves as an example of that.
So, the next time there is a mass shooting and the first inclination is to blame the shooter’s mental health, remember that there are people living with mental illnesses who have never had homicidal ideations. According to the BBC, the biggest contributing factors to mass shootings were access to guns and distress. Another lesser known factor in mass shootings is domestic violence too, a study conducted by the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence showed.
Yet, for mental health as a risk factor, one study by Columbia Psychiatry noted: “[S]erious mental illness—specifically psychosis—is not a key factor in most mass shootings or other types of mass murder. Approximately 5% of mass shootings are related to severe mental illness.” Oftentimes, these issues are subsidiary to the cause of the shooting, the study further stated.
Furthermore, they compiled a database that revealed “the vast majority of mass shootings and mass murder are committed by people without mental illness, and certainly not psychotic illness.” However, they wrote, these misconceptions are a product of misinformation being disseminated.
As someone with chronic mental illness, it is hurtful to see the causations made between the mentally ill and mass shooters. There is sometimes a correlation between the two, but one is not caused by the other, and that is an important distinction to make as we navigate a mental health epidemic.