The Poly Spotlight

October 13th, 2017
Let’s Not Go Mental

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By Michelle Boulos, Editor

This “mental health” commentary during tragedy needs to stop.

It doesn’t help families of victims knowing that their loved ones were senselessly killed because someone is “mentally ill.” It doesn’t help those who actually suffer from mental illnesses, being portrayed as possibly violent, while their other needs are possibly being neglected.

It’s no coincidence that someone in Vegas would fill a penthouse with 23 machine guns the weekend of a music festival. It’s no coincidence that more than 30 different actresses have stepped forward saying that a director sexually harassed them for the sake of business. It’s no coincidence that someone in Egypt would “randomly” chase and beat to death a priest who is wearing his black robes and cross around his neck.

I am tired of the same commentary after assaults and terrorist attacks: criminals portrayed as “lone wolves,” “mentally ill,” or once “loving” and “caring” people.

I see a bigger problem than excusing inexcusable actions with “mental illness”: denial. Denial is not wanting to admit that the groups and people society puts in power are corrupt or could possibly have done such abominable actions out of their own volition. “Notions of mental illness that emerge in relation to mass shootings frequently reflect larger cultural stereotypes and anxieties about matters such as race/ethnicity, social class, and politics,” Dr. Jonathan Metzl and Dr. Kenneth MacLeish from the American Public Health Association said.

We do not want to admit that a wealthy, retired white man could want to kill 58 people. We do not want to admit that a Hollywood elite, the director of beloved films, the executive of a powerful production company would want to harass or assault actresses, his own employees. Even on the other side of the world, people do not want to admit that a Muslim man intentionally targeted a Coptic priest, contributing to the ongoing persecution of Coptic Orthodox minorities.

It is not depression, sex addiction, or insanity. These are all intentional actions, for which criminals need to be held accountable. Perhaps mental illness may be a contributing factor, but we cannot solely put the burden on this reason. Furthermore, we cannot make events like these be the reason “‘mentally ill’ ceases to be a medical designation and becomes a sign of violent threat,” as Dr. Metzl and Dr. MacLeish noted.

Society, it is time for us to hold people accountable. Everywhere. It is time to give up this insanity defense.

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