Any mental health organization, and any of the 20 percent of people with some kind of mental health concern (along with their families and friends) should be very concerned about the on-going effort by legislators and other elected officials to tie mental health together with violent crime.

Ninty-seven percent of crime is perpetrated by those with no history or diagnosis of mental illness. And of the 3 percent that remains, only a tiny fraction involve firearms. In fact, those with mental health concerns are 12 times more likely to be victims, and not perpetrators, of crime. Study after study shows that very few mental health disorders have any positive correlation to violence at all. The most often cited, and most reputable, sources indicate that there are maybe three diagnosis that have any kind of statistically-significant correlation to violence. Three. The Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas alone has 32 programs, each geared toward a different aspect of mental health.

To publicize and blame the 3 percent with mental health concerns is a horrific and wildly unfair shot taken at those who are already disproportionately targeted in and by society at large. It exacerbates the unfair and undeserved stigma that remains attached to mental illness, creating a barrier to treatment for those who actually need it.

If there was any hope that attaching these things together would result in more government funding for mental health intervention and treatment, I might be singing a different tune. But the truth is that the only serious issue of violence among those with a serious and persistent mental health disorder is suicide. So if you want to protect your loved ones who are being unfairly targeted by those who want to sensationalize gun violence, the answer is to not buy into it. Do everything you can – from advocating with your legislators to helping get the word out through your media, civic and social contacts – to communicate the facts out about mental health so that those who need help will be both willing and able to get it.

 — Eric Litwiller, Director of Development and Communications Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas