Stop the Stigmatization

We commend Jack Ross, President of NAMI Central MA and a friend of Genesis Club, wrote to the New York Times last week in response to their recent story, Adams Unveils Plan to Quell Gun Violence (January 25th) that suggests people with mental illness are often the perpetrators of gun violence.  For more information on the realities of gun violence and mental illness go to:

Read Jack’s letter below:

In their article today (“Adams Unveils Plan to Quell Gun Violence”) your reporters, unfortunately, help perpetuate the myth that mental illness is a significant contributor to gun violence. The article identifies the mental health problems of New Yorkers as an issue that is “helping to fuel the current spike in violent crime.” Yet the reporters thereafter fail to cite any examples of a link between mental illness and violent crime. This is not surprising.

The fact is, as mental health organizations have pointed out for many years, the vast majority of people suffering from mental illness are not violent, and mental illness accounts for a very small (about 4%) portion of gun violence. It is true that roughly half of the suicides are inflicted with firearms, but this is a separate problem from the gun violence that Mayor Adams seeks to address, which is attributable to factors such as gang activity and the ubiquity of firearms in our society. 

For decades, in their efforts to derail reasonable gun regulation, the NRA and other gun rights groups have used mental illness as a scapegoat to deflect attention from the actual causes of gun violence. This shameful campaign, which distorts the facts and helps perpetuate stigmas regarding mental illness, is not surprising given the source. But it is disturbing to see reputable, normally fact-based newspapers like the Times buy into the myth that mental illness is a major contributor to gun violence.