Over the weekend an American soldier, husband, father of two, allegedly went on a shooting rampage that left at least 16 civilians dead in Afghanistan.
Once again, speculation turns to the mental state of the alleged perpetrator. For example, ABC News opens a story about the shooting: “Whether it was a psychotic break or underlying mental illness that led a United States Army soldier to allegedly massacre 16 Afghan civilians -- including women and children -- is still unclear.”
This obsession in the media with connecting massacres with mental illness twists the truth about mental illness, inflames prejudice, and cuts at the fabric of the already-fragile self-esteems of the millions who live with mental illnesses. A history of mental illness does not predict violent behavior. Again, a history of mental illness does not predict violent behavior. When combined with substance abuse, the risk of violence does increase, but the combination of substance abuse and mental illness still ranks lower as a predictor of violence than being male, being young, or going through a divorce or separation in the previous year.
Can you imagine the firestorm of criticism if some media outlet speculated about the state of this soldier’s marriage as a reason for his violent behavior? A firestorm would be justified. Yet no firestorm erupts when pundits speculate about his mental state.
Disability Concerns wants to counter this horrible bias in the media and society in a small way by letting people affected by mental illnesses tell their own stories through poems, prose, or visual art. This story project began recently and has already collected 25 written works and one painting.
- Hear from two mothers whose fierce love is stronger than their sons’ mental illnesses.
- Read how two pastors dealt with episodes of acute mental illness in the course of their ministry.
- Be inspired by a poem about floating dandelion seeds that reminds the author of snow falling up toward God.
- Appreciate the defiance against depression in a painting called "The Tomb is Not My Home."
- Listen to a pastor embrace hope at the funeral of a beloved parishioner who lived with severe anxiety.
These stories tell the truth about real people affected by mental illness. They will give you a new appreciation for life with mental illness. They will defy the stereotypes that so much of the media perpetrate against people who live with mental illnesses. They will remind you that many of us in Christ’s body live with mental illnesses by the grace of God.