Feature

The peril of stigmatizing mental illness

In the national debate on gun violence, the mentally ill make for “easy scapegoats."

Abby Rapoport
The American Prospect

In the national debate on gun violence, the mentally ill make for “easy scapegoats,” said Abby Rapoport. The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre has called for a national database of the mentally ill, saying it’s the best way to stop “genuine monsters” from killing. But stigmatizing those who seek treatment is likely to backfire—and make all of us less safe. Take the new law in New York that requires therapists and nurses to alert officials if they deem a patient a danger to themselves or others, so that whatever weapons they own can be confiscated. This is based on the fallacy that murderous behavior can be predicted ahead of time. It usually can’t. And will people suffering from PTSD, bipolar disorder, or other forms of mental illness be more or less likely to seek treatment, if doing so lands them on a government list and guarantees that cops will confiscate their guns? In most cases, “it’s the lack of treatment” that’s the best predictor of future violence. To make the country safer, we should make mental health treatment more accessible, rather than punish those who seek it. 

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