Fair observation of mental illness


To the editor:

The last couple of days have been tough. The communities of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, have known terrible trauma. Children are trying to make sense of violence that defies comprehension.

To that list, I might add a third category: The countless numbers of peaceful, law-abiding people struggling to overcome their own burden of mental illness. In the name of passing much-needed gun control legislation, a possible benefit to come from the tragic shootings, the casual rhetoric demonizing the mentally ill has grown ubiquitous.

The leader of the chorus is the president himself. While I do not doubt that improved background checks are a useful and important step, I fear that this kind of talk is having real and serious consequences.

First, it may well discourage those in need from taking that difficult first step of seeking help. Second, it makes the load carried by those in recovery that much more difficult to carry.

While we move ahead with the vitally important work of controlling guns, might we not take time to remember that there are hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people who are at risk here? It was the leader of the parents of the children lost in Newtown who went out of their way to distinguish between the National Rifle Association talking points and the reality that the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence.

According to David Brooks and sPBS “Newshour,” the entire mentally ill population — including those with schizophrenia — is no more violent than any other. Even on good days, the portrayal of the mentally ill tends toward the overly dramatic.

In these tough times, a little restraint and consideration is in order.

Josh Greenfield


Have an opinion? Share your thoughts as a letter to the editor. Make your submission to letters@riverdalepress.com. Please include your full name, phone number (for verification purposes only), and home address (which will not be published).
Josh Greenfield,