To the Editor:
We have seen several horrific incidents in recent months, from increased violence in the New York City subways to the Uvalde school shooting. Despite these tragedies, we at the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City have continued to assert that mental illness does not necessarily cause this violence.
People living with severe and chronic mental illness are 11 times more likely to be victims of violence than the general population, but the media and politicians reinforce the opposite notion. This article makes it clear that there are many red flags, like a personal crisis or childhood trauma, that are more accurate indicators of an individual’s likelihood of harming others.
We thank the author, Shaila Dewan, for destigmatizing how we talk about mental illness. Most people with mental illness are not criminals and are not violent. Nearly one in five adults lives with mental illness, and the other four have mentally ill family, friends or neighbors.
We’ll get nowhere in our advocacy toward mental health equity, in building support systems and even in expanding insurance coverage if we continue reinforcing misconceptions about what mental illness looks like and preventing people from getting the support they need.