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

Wednesday, January 2, 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


Time To Target The Criminal

While we are in the mood to give up our constitutional rights, why not go after a few in our justice system that protect the criminal and not restrict the law-abiding gun owner?  I for one would be more agreeable to keeping some of these killers off the streets. I gladly welcome TSA screening at the airport, I am pleased when they ask me for an ID at the bank even though ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: What You Leave Behind

Randy Travis, one of the best at singing country songs that has ever been, had a song about three people who got killed when an 18-wheeler missed a stop sign. There was a farmer and a teacher, a hooker and a preacher on this bus and Randy tells us: “One's headed for vacation, one for higher education, An' two of them were searchin' for lost souls.” In that wonderful song, the ... (click for more)

Customer At East Ridge Gas Station Shoots And Kills Robber; He Had Been Trying To Take Female Clerk With Him

East Ridge Police said a customer at an East Ridge gas station early Thursday morning shot a robber, who was then found by police lying outside the station and was arrested.  The robber has died.  His name is being withheld pending the notification of next of kin. At 1:47 a.m., East Ridge Police responded to 4011 Ringgold Road, the Marathon Service Station, on ... (click for more)

Bridge Repair Over 12th Street To Cause Temporary Lane Closure On US 27

While investigating a pothole in the bridge on U.S. 27 North over 12 th Street in the construction zone, crews discovered a potential weak spot in the bridge deck that could over time result in more damage to the bridge deck.  For the safety of the traveling public, the outside lane in this area will be closed until the contractor makes necessary repairs, TDOT officials ... (click for more)

Hensley Succeeds Henry As Soddy-Daisy Athletic Director

Soddy-Daisy baseball coach Jared Hensley has added a new role to his duties. Hensley, who has coached the baseball Trojans for eight years with a 177-111 record and state tournament appearances in 2011 and 2015, is the school’s new athletic director. Hensley takes over for Steve Henry, now the school’s principal. “With coach Henry now the man in charge at our school,” ... (click for more)

Unbeaten Fairyland Clinches Red Division Swim Title

Members of the Calhoun swim team were set and ready to compete on the pool deck at the Fairyland Club Monday night, but they never got wet as the meet was postponed by lighting, thunder and the overall threat of stormy weather. They made the long trip back about 24 hours later and the second time around wasn’t nearly as productive as 21 less swimmers made the trip to the top ... (click for more)