mental illness and violence

Can we stop pronouncing Loughner mentally ill on scant evidence? It does a disservice to all mentally ill people. The facts are these: Most murders are committed by people who are NOT mentally ill, and most mentally ill people pose no danger to anyone around them. Full stop. Sure, the man’s rants on YouTube seem bizarre, but they’re no more bizarre than half the rants at Tea Party rallies across the country in the last two years. He’s clearly barely literate and inarticulate, but that’s the most we can really say about him without a comprehensive mental health evaluation.

And yet every person in the media, right and left, seems to be throwing mental health words around like they’re sure of what they’re saying. There is indeed a conversation that needs to be held about mental health in the United States, but it’s not about “not letting people slip through the cracks” — it’s about the general public understanding what mental illness really is and getting over it’s fear and bigotry about it.

I’m not saying he should be let off the hook – far from it. If you read me at all, you know I support the death penalty, and he needs to face it, frankly. He needs to pay for what he did. But before people hang his motive on mental illness, we need to know that he his in fact mentally ill, and I don’t think the “evidence” of three YouTube videos cuts it.

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