I try to not write long posts because I know they can be time consuming but I’ve made an exception.
First of all, as a human being and as someone who works with children, I am horrified by the mass killing of innocent children and adults at Sandy Hook. I send all my love and support to families, friends, the community and anyone else who is being greatly effected by the tragedy.
As much as millions in the USA and around the world will want to know why Adam Lanza killed those children and teachers at Sandy Hook the odds of finding that out are small if not non-existent. When watching the news I can hear the frustration in reporters voices when they say that no one knows why. We thrive on “why”. Knowing why allows us to make sense of things, so we know what the next step will be. What do we do when we don’t know why?
Historically the answers seems to be to blame it on a mental illness. Every time a violent crime happens, mostly the ones where multiple people are murdered, I dread what the media is going to say about that person and rightly so. That person is then said to have a mental illness, usually schizophrenia. Many of us are familiar with the sinking feeling that follows after hearing someone with a mental illness committed a horrible violent crime. It’s not necessarily because we’re upset “one of our own” committed a crime but it is because we know that this stupid person now represent us. That person is now what the public sees as a mental illness.
I skimmed over an article last night in The Huffington Post called Let’s Talk About Mental Health, Not “Evil”. It was written by a social worker which from my personal and research experience does not mean that it’s going to be great. Always with good intention but not always great. What I got out of the blog article was that Sandy Hook is a great opening point for discussing mental health because the how world is listening. if we wait to long, the author says, then it will become irrelevant and we will not have made progress in de-stigmatizing and educating on mental illness.
I commented back with:
“I don’t know how I feel about this.
Everyone I know with a mental health issue, myself included, have been victims of violence, not the perpetrators. We always get lumped into the same category as these horrible killers and that’s not fair. If professionals can go out of their way to say that people with Aspergers are not dangerous I would like the same consideration.
We cannot assume that just because someone does something bad means that there is a mental illness. Having a mental illness doesn’t make you a bad person. There are so many great people who experience mental health issues. Why do the bad people have to represent the group?”
I feel that talking about mental illness after this crime would make it difficult for people to understand that Adam Lanza is in fact an anomaly (sounds strange to use that word in a mental health context) in the mental health community.
The kicker to all of this is that there is no proof that Adam Lanza actually was experiencing a mental illness it’s basically just been assumed that the odds are very high that he experienced one. Other communities be labelled as dangerous such as the Black and Muslim community. You must be dangerous because you are black! No! It’s ridiculous that it can be almost impossible for people to wrap their minds around the fact that it’s the PERSON NOT THE GROUP!
An article in the Toronto Star appeared a few days ago about Adam Lanza and him having Aspergers syndrome. This was one of the few times I had seen experts say that a group is not likely to be violent or commit crimes. What’s even more impressive is probably the speed at which this article was produced. Experts wanted it to be known that individuals with Aspergers are no less likely to commit a crime then those without the syndrome.
The same goes for those with mental illnesses, especially those with schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder (which appeared to be blamed the most). Where are the experts clarifying that the mental health community is no less likely to commit a crime than someone not experiencing a mental illness? Where are the experts to say that individuals experiencing a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime? I’m patiently awaiting that article.
What is comes down to is some people just suck. They are not good people and they do bad things. This DOES NOT mean they have a mental illness. I know too many people, including myself, living with various mental health issues, and who are amazing people, to believe for a second that having a mental illness is an indication of violence. On some level I believe that in order to accept that violent crimes are linked to a mental illness would be to believe that people are inherently good which I do not think at all. Some people are evil. Not ill, evil.
With so many different people in the world someone in a marginalized group is bound to commit a crime that horrifies us. In this case it really is a person who just so happens to have a mental illness. It’s not the illness or, and I will step out and say it, if it is the illness it is ONLY THAT PERSON’S EXPERIENCE OF THE ILLNESS!
If I bring this a little closer to home for a second. My friend was murdered January 1st 2008 at the age of 14. The idiot girl who organized and encouraged her murder was labelled in the media as having borderline personality disorder. Avid readers of my blog will know that is my diagnosis. While I believe her lawyers were scrapping for a way to get her sentence reduced, if I imagine for a second that this idiot girl had BPD then her and I would be the perfect example of how a disorder can appear differently in two people. I have never committed a violent crime and would never dream of ending someone’s life. I even work with children and as I said in a previous post, would not think twice about protecting them from harm.
IT IS THE PERSON!
Why couldn’t the positive actions of those experiencing a mental illness be what is seen by the public?
I hope people can see that the actions of one are just of that one person, not of the group.
(Side Question: If you experience Aspergers do you identify as that syndrome being a mental illness? Just curious because I did make them two separate things in this post so I want to make sure what is preferred.)