Linking terrorist attacks with mental illnesses is callous

Gun violence and mental health are often linked whenever an incident of shooting is reported anywhere in the United States. Not in many, but in some cases the connection between the two has been established. However, it was disturbing to hear the talks of mental illness as the cause behind the last month’s terror attack on the British Parliament.

The deadly terror attack in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster on March 22, 2017 saw five people – the perpetrator, a police officer and three civilians – dead, while around 40 others were injured. Even as the police and the government were quick in terming it a “terror attack” blaming it on an international terror group, social media platforms were abuzz with the speculations of the lone attacker’s mental illness.

Terror and stigma cannot go hand in hand

Linking terrorism to mental health without any basis can further stigmatize and discriminate mentally ill people from the normal ones, leading to serious repercussions. Such advocacy is generally practiced by people grappling with mental illnesses themselves or by those who do not understand mental illnesses.

“We don’t understand how someone could carry out an act of violence. It’s easy to pin it on something that’s convenient. We’re missing something when we do that,” said Wendy Giebink of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, summarizing the situation.

In an editorial published in The British Medical Journal in 2016, the authors have discussed in detail the link between mental illnesses and terrorism. They have called for an urgent need for responsible media reporting, urging journalists to refrain from linking every violent attack with a mental health disorder.

The researchers insisted that terrorist groups rather avoid recruiting people with mental health disabilities because they too hold the same stigmatized views as that of the rest of the people. Also, they perceive mentally ill people as undependable, difficult to train and a security threat.

Dealing with stigma

Stigma usually involves avoidance, prejudice, discrimination and rejection directed towards people believed to be afflicted with a mental disorder. This might result in needless suffering and denial leading to delay in treatment. The condition may turn the affected person into a recluse, avoiding even day-to-day activities. The more serious consequences of stigma can be the expulsion of mentally ill people from housing, insurance, employment and medical care.

Combating stigma associated with mental health patients should be the top priority of authorities. Reaching out to people with mental health problems is the most effective way to reduce discrimination and prejudice.

In fact, anti-stigma interventions like social campaigns and educational awareness in schools and colleges can lessen negative discernments towards such people. Statistics suggests that one in five Americans lives with a mental health condition and each of them has his own sufferings and feelings. It is imperative that we respect and regard the feelings of such people.

Recovery from mental illnesses

Unfortunately, mental health illnesses are still a forbidden subject across the world. Even the media seems to take a backseat when it comes to mental health. But people with mental health disorders often suffer lasting pain emotionally and need medical treatment as soon as possible. In addition, untreated mental health illnesses might drive someone towards addiction and even crimes.

If you or a loved one has a mental health disorder, the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline  can help with relevant information that should be helpful in fighting the problem. Our representatives have your best interests in mind. You may call our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with our mental health specialist for further assistance.