Mental illness hardly ever leads to violence, contrary to media distortions and general misunderstanding
Mental illnesses can take many forms, just as physical illnesses do—and are common—but mental illnesses are still feared and misunderstood by many people. Debate on the tragedy in Tuscon, Arizona last month, for example, has covered the gamut of gun control, partisan politics, drug abuse and mental-health care.
Jared Loughner shot 20 people, killing six, including a nine-year-old girl. His actions provoked discussion about his sanity—and speculation about violence and the mentally ill. One U.S. columnist wrote that “amateur diagnoses…concluded that Loughner was not so much a political extremist as a man suffering from ‘paranoid schizophrenia’” and suggested that the media is too quick to use mental illness as an explanation for violence.
We speak with Coast Mental Health executive director Darrell Burnham, who wrote a guest column for The Province newspaper, Mental illness hardly ever leads to violence, in the days following the Tuscon tragedy.