There are several obvious problems with this, starting with the fact that the phrase “mental illness” encompasses innumerable types of conditions that are as similar to each other as Taylor Swift and Morgan Freeman. The fact that people treat the term “mental health” as though it is one giant indivisible blob of entity is problematic in that it is highly reductive, and very telling of their idea of how best to solve “problems” related to mental health patients.

Next, by using the umbrella term “mental health” to express their assumption about the gunman, these people – unintentionally or otherwise – paint a picture of all mental health patients being highly volatile, dangerous, and fully capable of committing cold-blooded murders, even if they may only have in mind a specific kind of mentally ill person, whatever the “specific kind” is. The wide propagation of this stereotypical image has very real and harmful effects on the lives of mental health patients. I know this because I’ve witnessed this discrimination, which runs from the structural level to the interpersonal level, first hand, on way too many occasions. I have seen how people treat my brother differently. It is as though they think he will do something scary or disgusting without warning, even though he shows no signs of harm. It breaks my heart every single time. I have spent my whole life trying to fight this harmful stereotype and stigma, and the further propagation of it by people who probably do not connect with a mental health patient on a personal level is definitely not going to make this fight any easier.

Understandably, people – including myself – are running high on strong emotions because of the compassion and sadness they feel for the victims, and bringing the gunman down is the most natural thing to do. Regardless, the careless usage of the phrase “mental health"in describing the gunman before any concrete evidence of the gunman’s circumstances is irresponsible and has wider negative consequences.

SocioRAWgy: Newtown mass shooting: “mental health”

This essay is worth reading in its entirety. While it is probable that the shooter had some form of mental illness (episode) the blanket use of the term makes me, as a person who’s struggled with depression an mild psychotic symptoms, uneasy as well. 

Also, even though these mass shootings are often done by perpetrators with some type of mental illness (even undocumented/undiagnosed/untreated) so many cases of gun violence are conducted by ‘healthy’ people – street violence, domestic violence, hate crimes. 

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