Grounded in Faith: Resources on Mental Health and Gun Violence

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The Disability Concerns ministries of both the CRC and the Reformed Church in America are members of the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), a division of the American Association of People with Disabilities. The mission of IDAC is to mobilize the religious community to take action on disability policy issues with the U.S. Congress, the President and Administration, and society at large. Though members of IDAC come from different faith traditions, our core spiritual values affirm the rights and dignity of people with disabilities.

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition recently released Grounded in Faith: Resources on Mental Health and Gun Violence. This compendium is a resource for congregational leaders, disability advocates, and other concerned persons who wish to ensure that the on-going debate around gun violence prevention does not stigmatize people with mental illnesses, and deprive them of their rights and freedoms.

Most notable from this report, “According to the MacArthur Study of Mental Disorder and Violence — the most rigorous scientific study conducted to date by the country’s leading experts on mental illness and violence — the contribution to violence made by persons with mental illness is no larger than the contribution made by persons who do not have mental illness (Monahan et al., 2001), with other demographic and socioeconomic factors contributing much more than mental illness.” Furthermore, "rigorous scientific studies on mental illness and violence demonstrate that demographic and socioeconomic factors are much more likely to contribute to violence than is mental illness. Of the 17,000 homicides committed in the United States each year, fewer than 5 percent involved mental illness."

In spite of these facts, the media, talk show hosts, humorists, bloggers, and uninformed citizens insist that people with mental illnesses pose a threat of violence. As a result, millions of Americans with mental illnesses are stigmatized unfairly. In addition, the myth that people with mental illness are violent creates demands for unwarranted limitations on their rights and freedoms, including rights established under the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision. Equally important, these negative characterizations and the possible loss of rights and freedoms may discourage many people from acknowledging their illness and seeking treatment.

This compendium of resources can be used to initiate conversations among students, parents, neighbors and colleagues with conflicting views; to provide guidance to study groups and workshops; to support advocacy to protect the rights and dignity of people with disabilities; and to inform national organizations, state and federal policy makers and officials about this complex subject. Grounded in Faith can nurture a new dialogue about the nation’s insufficient mental health system and serve as a springboard for action across religious and secular communities. At every opportunity, the voices of people dealing with mental health issues should be welcomed and valued.

Given all the evidence against, why do you think many people cling to the idea that mental illness is the primary cause of violent acts?

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"Given all the evidence against, why do you think many people cling to the idea that mental illness is the primary cause of violent acts?"

Because it is an easy and the government is lazy.  We will blame "crazy", oops - people with mental illness, make sure  doctors report anyone they suspect of having mental illness and quickly take away their rights.  Then they are surprised when violent crime doesn't go down and decide that we need more rights reducing laws.

I did not think that the argument is that challenged folk are the main cause of violence. Violence has too many causes and perpetrators to blame it all on them.  They are not the main cause of violence.  I thought the argument is that among these folk violence is more frequent than among other identifiable groups in our population.

The same is true for Muslim violence. To shift the blame for the bulk of violence from the challenged folk to Muslims is similarly wrong reasoning, though there is a higher attempt among militant Muslims to commit violence, they are not the cause of most violence in North America.  And it should not be forgotten that world-wide, there are as many Muslims who are victimized by Muslim militants as there are Christians and Jews. 

 

Contrary to your concen that the "ongoing debate around gun violence could stigmatize those who are mentally challenged" I am of the opinion that there is no concern here at all. I believe the MacArthur Study you reference also supports that position.

However, until school boards take some concrete defensive measures (training and arming the staff is a good first step) the Sandy Hook School massacre may, unfortunately, be repeated. Protecting children in their schools against 'loners' or mentally deranged people, can be addressed in a constructive manner by first seeking and then implementing the advice provided by those personnel who are trained to protect the innocent.

The real danger to North America is not those isolated cases of mentally derganged people on a shooting rampage, but the Muslim terrorists whose stated objective is to annihilate the infidels....you, me and our Jewish brothers. Unlike Sandy Hook or Columbine, this is a concerted effort by people of a false beleif system..... and hence much more dangerous.

It will take more than "justice will be served " and other wishful thinking
to effectively address the threat Islam represents to America.

Sincerely, Ed Tigchelaar

Community Builder

I think suicide by the mentally ill may be greater than in  the general population, but not murder, mass murder or terrorism of any kind. 

The finger is pointed at the mentally ill because sinners always want to know whose fault it is.  Since the mentally ill cannot engage in the finger pointing, they are too ill, they become easy skapegoats.  It's the old speck and plank problem.  Our hearts are so blinded by our own sin, the plank, that we cannot see accurately the sin of another.  We first need to do the surgery of confession and repentance on ourselves before we can understand the sin of another.

Larry