Those With Mental Illnesses Are Far More Likely To Be Victims, Than Perpetrators

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Having spent more than 25 years working in and with the mental health system in
Georgia advocating for increased, better, and different services in that state and
beyond, some of the conclusions being drawn following the Newtown, Connecticut
shootings are concerning.

The December 30 Chattanooga Times/Free Press contained several articles,
commentaries, and opinions suggesting the root problem in this tragedy was that
the shooter had a mental illness; ignoring the fact that the mentally ill shooter also
had access to multiple, high-powered, military-grade firearms.

A political cartoon on the Free Press side of the Opinion section that morning
depicted a youth with a smoking gun with “EVIL” written on his back. The title of
the piece was “The Root of Evil” and depicted as “roots” such things as “Exposure to
Violence” and “Decaying Morality” along with “Unearned Fame” and “Lack of Social
Contact”; all of which could well be true. What was particularly concerning was
that, along with these social issues, many of which are “rooted” in lack of intentional
parenting and transferring of morals to children, was “Mental Illness”.

Mental illnesses are, almost exclusively, no-fault diseases that affect our brains
(another organ of the body); diseases no different than cancer, diabetes, or heart
disease. Any of these diseases, left untreated, can have devastating consequences
to the person affected. The truth is that people with severe and persistent mental
illnesses are far more likely to be a VICTIM of crime than a perpetrator. They are
more likely to be homeless, poor, and sick with other physical ailments due to their
inability to care for themselves properly. To equate mental illnesses with moral
decay or dissolution of the family ignores the facts and stigmatizes those who have a
mental illness; most of whom lead quiet and productive lives amongst us every day.
Mental illness is certainly not a “root” of evil, no more than any other disease.

The good news is that medications, programs, and rehabilitation services that are
effective do exist for those affected; albeit not at the levels that are needed. If we
are going to recognize mental illness as a factor in this horrific event and crime we
must further recognize and reverse the societal cost of decreased funding for mental
health services. When budgets are tight, mental health services are almost always
among the first on the chopping block because of a lack of a powerful constituency
pushing against those cuts. While governing is about priorities, sadly, it is those
without a voice (in the form of lots of political action dollars to spread around) that
are most often judged to be a “lower” priority.
In assessing the root cause of this tragedy, it is entirely appropriate to discuss the
various evils depicted in the cartoon, though in the case of mental illness, the sad

truth is that our citizens have not demanded that policymakers help create as a high
priority a mental healthcare framework that remotely meets societal needs.

Perhaps the only good that can come of this senseless tragedy will be an honest
conversation around the social and societal impact of turning our backs on the
compelling need for stronger investment in mental health services. Hopefully, we
won’t as a society fall into the trap of further stigmatizing those who struggle and
mostly succeed every day with mental health issues.

John T. Dixon, MS, CPRP
Chair, Georgia Chapter of the United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association
Chattanooga


Worse And Worser

We hear a lot about voter apathy, citizens of this, the greatest nation to ever grace the face of Planet Terra, these United States of America, who fail to take advantage of their right, nay, accept their responsibility to participate in government of this great nation. How many of us know citizens who don't vote? Worse yet, how many of us know citizens who aren't even registered ... (click for more)

Howley Has New Ideas And New Energy For Signal Mountain

Over the last several years, I have had the opportunity to serve with Chris Howley on the Signal Mountain Recreation Advisory Board.  During this time, I obtained an insight into the qualities that make Chris Howley an outstanding candidate to serve on the Signal Mountain Town Council.Chris has spent countless hours on the board overseeing the numerous recreation leagues and ... (click for more)

Chickamauga Lock To Reopen As Soon As Next Thursday

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District  plans to reopen Chickamauga Lock to all navigation traffic as early as next Thursday. An inspection of the upper gate anchorage and a repair plan were completed today. Chickamauga Lock closed on Monday after a routine inspection revealed a crack in the anchorage of the upper gate. Lt. Col. John Hudson, commander ... (click for more)

Downtown Chattanooga Apartment Complex That Brought $3 Million Profit Exempt From Most Taxes Until 2022 Under PILOT

A downtown Chattanooga apartment complex that recently was sold at a $3 million profit is exempt from most property taxes through 2022 under a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement.   No payment of school taxes was included in the deal for Walnut Commons at Walnut Street and Aquarium Way.   The only taxes due on the property for the next eight ... (click for more)

Owls Beat McMinn, 30-12, To Complete Unbeaten Regular Season

Undefeated. Sounds nice, huh. After a sluggish first half that produced only three points on a Laszlo Toser field goa., third-ranked Ooltewah came to life in the third quarter, riddled McMinn County’s defense with three Kelvin Leon touchdown passes in the third quarter and went on to beat the Cherokees, 30-12, at James N. Monroe Stadium to secure the school’s third unbeaten ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Clobbers Grundy Co. For 7-AA Title

Notre Dame coach Charles Fant is always hoping that his Fighting Irish football team can get off to a fast start. He never thought it would be as quick as what he saw Thursday night at Jim Eberle Field. With a District 7-AA championship on the line on an evening when they honored all of the fall senior athletes, a football game turned into a track meet and eventually a victory ... (click for more)