June 14, 2016
San Francisco, CA - Senseless tragedies like the recent mass shooting in Orlando, or the ones in Newtown, Charleston, and too many others before it, are a sobering reminder that the factors that lead to violence are multi-faceted and complex. Iustitia Legal Center (iustitia) unequivocally condemns the shooting at the Pulse night club in Orlando that took 49 lives and injured many more and calls for a stigma-free approach that addresses all of the root causes of such tragedies including homophobia, easy access to weapons, inadequate mental health and social services, xenophobia, domestic violence, and Islamphobia.
“Media reports of mass shootings galvanize public attention and reinforce the false narrative that mental illness leads to violence. This is simply incorrect,” says iustitia Co-Director Seema Kadaba. “Epidemiological studies over the past 20 years show that the vast majority of people with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression, are never actually violent toward other people.”
“The unfortunate truth is that those with mental illness are often on the fatal end of a gun. More than 60% of the gun fatalities in this country are suicides,” iustitia Co-Director Sydney Pomykata added. “Cutting off access to guns will not stop suicides, but it must be taken in conjunction with access to mental health services if this public health threat is to be taken seriously.”
“Conveying a narrative that treats individuals with mental illnesses as if they are prone to violence risks stigmatizing the 42 million people (nearly 20% of the adult population) suffering from mental illness in this country,” said iustitia Co-Director Marie Soueid. “It discourages them from seeking treatment and risks portraying vulnerable individuals as dangerous and distracts from the intersectional drivers of violence. Mental illness should never, ever be used as a synonym for dangerousness or violence.”
iustitia encourages lawmakers to take action through increasing gun regulation and background checks, addressing societal inequalities and prejudices that lead to gun violence, and taking the links between domestic violence and gun violence seriously, as well as expanding mental health treatment programs because those suffering from mental illness have a right to access services. An approach that only focuses on terrorism, gun regulation, or mental health is like putting a band-aid on a gunshot. Band-aids are no longer adequate. Real solutions are required before the next teenage suicide attempt or domestic dispute turns fatal.
iustitia is a non-profit organization headquartered in San Francisco, CA working to promote mental health, neurodiversity, and justice.
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