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


Roy Exum: A Very Silly Apology

It didn’t get a lot of attention, as well it should not have, but when I heard Japanese giant Mitsubishi was offered an apology for heinous war crimes that took place during World War II, I thought it was an ill-conceived publicity stunt. But, no, in a solemn ceremony last month hosted by the Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, that is exactly what ... (click for more)

How To Be #ChattanoogaStrong

Chattanooga is my home; I was born here 35 years ago. Without a doubt, this has been one of the most challenging times in our city's history. The #ChattanoogaStrong hashtag will remain for quite some time, but it means so much more than 18 characters on social media. It represents the sorrow and mourning, as well as the resilience and compassion, of our exceptional community.  ... (click for more)

Truck Driver Who Caused Wreck That Killed 6 People At Ooltewah Indicted On 13 Charges; Report Says He Drove Excessive Hours

The Chattanooga Police Department has issued a capias for the arrest of Benjamin Brewer, 39, concerning the multiple fatality traffic crash that occurred on I-75 northbound on June 25. Brewer was indicted on Monday on 13 counts.  They include six counts of vehicular homicide by impairment, a B-felony; four counts for reckless aggravated assault, a D-felony; one count for DUI ... (click for more)

Rawls Says Schools Could Have Better Spent $16,000 Than For Motivational Speech; County To Explore Performance Guaranteed Utility Contract

Bradley County Commissioner Dan Rawls said three school systems could have better spent $16,000 than for a motivational speaker to fire teachers up at the start of a new school year. He said the payment to Ron Clark, former National Teacher of the Year and the founder of the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, could have gone for school supplies and other needs. Bradley County ... (click for more)

NPSL Championship To Be Played In Chattanooga

It's Chattanooga FC taking on the New York Cosmos B for the National Premier Soccer League’s national championship and the Scenic City's Finley Stadium is the site Saturday, August 8 at 7:30 p.m. Thanks to a 9,000 plus crowd at Chattanooga's 3-0 semifinal win against the Indiana Fire, the Tennessee team broke the league’s previous record of 8,878, which was ... (click for more)

Jones Press Conference Kicks Off Vols' Preseason

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Coach Butch Jones held his preseason football press conference on Monday at Neyland Stadium. Jones heads into his third season with visible enthusiasm after the Vols finished off the 2014 season with an impressive win over Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl, following that up with another nationally ranked recruiting class. "In terms of our football team, we ... (click for more)