Mental Health, Violence & Mass Media

 

News coverage for mental illness vastly overrates the proportion committed by persons with mental illness.  There is an assumption that almost all the mass shootings and dramatic violent acts are committed by the mentally ill.  This is simply untrue and perpetuates a very harmful stereotype.

 

It’s not surprising that in a world with less and less true journalism, we receive most of our news in brief, sensationalized snippets.  Our news world is changing rapidly and its changing our perceptions of the world. 

 

The gap between how violence gets reported and the reality is increasing.  The fact is this further stigmatizes mental illness at a very vulnerable time.  We already have significant social problems with the shift away from community mental health, access to care problems, difficulty with public treatments and generally inadequate care for many people with mental illness.  Creating false perception about violence perpetuated by the mentally ill has public policy and funding implications.

 

The truth is the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent.  High profile cases make us think otherwise.

 

We need to continue to do a better job of educating the public about the true nature of mental illness.  We need to continue to advocate for more and better treatments along with policies to care and decrease social stigma.

 

Timothy Re, Psy.D., CADC

Licensed Clinical Psychologist