The day after the high school stabbing in Pennsylvania in April, one of my teachers announced that the student who stabbed 16 people at his high school in Pennsylvania was not a weird loner. She followed this by saying that everyone needs to make sure they’re dealing with stress in a healthy way and are talking to their parents and counselors about problems. Even though she had good intentions, something about her announcement annoyed me a little. It seems like no one’s interested in having a conversation about mental health until a mentally ill person kills someone.
The Pennsylvania stabbing wasn’t the only time I noticed that. After the Aurora shootings, the public’s focus shifted toward the shooter’s history of mental illness. We heard more about schizophrenia in the weeks following that shooting than we had that entire year. A similar phenomenon occurred after the recent Fort Hood shooting and the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007.
Mental health is incredibly important. I would argue that it is the most important contributor to a person’s wellbeing (or lack of it). However, only discussing the issue when a mentally ill person murders someone contributes to the stigma of mental illness. People begin to associate mental illness with violence, schizophrenia and murder.
Mental health should be a topic of discussion because people who are mentally ill are sick and need treatment, not because they are a menace to society. Taking care of mentally ill people is important because they are individuals, just like everyone else, who probably have something to offer to society. Mental illness should be treated because mentally ill people deserve to be healthy and happy, just like everyone else. Mentally ill people are not a problem, mental illness is.
— Frances Beroset