Mental Health America of Greater Houston Statement on Orlando Tragedy

 

A Message From
Susan Fordice, President and CEO

 

Mental Health America of Greater Houston joins the nation in mourning those who died and those who were injured in the attack on the Orlando night club. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and the community.

We recognize the trauma of this horrific act has left people outraged, emotional, and sensitive as they deal with loss, personal fears and anxiety of such an atrocity. Organizationally, we are also reminded of the many stigmas of this case, including the correlation between people with mental illnesses and violence. 

While we appreciate the efforts of the media to share information, we also find that the link between mental illness and violence is also promoted by news media as they tell this story.

As reports of the Orlando massacre unfold, it has been suggested that the gunman had a history of mental illness.  This information is unverified, but the associated language to describe the attacker (crazy, psycho, violent, evil, hateful, sick, dangerous, etc.) can indeed influence public perception and sway opinions to believe that people with mental illnesses are violent.

Mental Health America of Greater Houston encourages our society to also remember a few facts about mental illness and violence:

  • The majority of people with mental illness are not violent, the contribution of people who have mental illnesses to overall rates of violence is small, and the magnitude of the relationship is greatly exaggerated. The risk of violence among people with mental illness as a group is very small. Only a small proportion of the violence in our society is attributed to people who have mental illnesses.
  • People with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime. People who have severe mental illnesses, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are 2 ½ times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population.
  • Inaccurate beliefs about mental illness and violence lead to widespread stigma and discrimination. Stigma leads others to avoid living, socializing, or working with, renting to, or employing people who have mental disorders - especially disorders, such as schizophrenia. It leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness. It deters the public from seeking and wanting to pay for care. Responding to stigma, people with mental health concerns internalize public attitudes and become so embarrassed or ashamed that they often conceal symptoms and fail to seek treatment.

Coming together as a nationwide community, understanding mental health, learning about mental illnesses and their symptoms, knowing what actions to take if a person is experiencing concerning behaviors, normalizing care and treatment, improving legislation, eliminating waiting lists and making services and resources available to people with health conditions can help people and communities recover from this tragedy and help prevent a future tragedy.

Mental Health America of Greater Houston, established in 1954 by philanthropist Ima Hogg, is the area’s longest serving mental health education and advocacy organization focused on shaping the mental health of people and communities in the areas of children and education, integrated health care, chronic illnesses, women, suicide prevention, veterans and aging.  

We actively work to replace misperceptions and misunderstanding about mental illness with compassion and proper treatment; link people to mental health services; provide education and training for key sectors of the community; remove barriers to mental health care by facilitating change in systems and advocate for legislative solutions that address the vast unmet need for public mental health services. We accomplish this through collaborations, education, outreach and advocacy. www.mhahouston.org.