Most hurtful behavior in the world is done by people who are not crazy. Yet when we explain hurtful behavior, we very often attribute it to mental illness. This is usually a mistake. For many people who do it, it is not even an excusable mistake, because their reference from their own life experience is that they have been hurt more often by people who were not crazy.
When a person attributes someone's jerkish behavior to mental illness, it is unlikely that person's own life experience includes more examples of jerkwad behavior from someone "certifiable" than examples of jerkwad behavior from someone not "certifiable"…
…unless that person had a similar age sibling who was/is "certifiable".
The point is not that there are no cases of crazy people acting like total jerks. The point is that the use of this is completely unjustified and contributes to oppression at the same time. (If the statement was true/justified and happened to contribute to oppression, we would just have to deal with the fallout of the truth, not suppress it: this is not about those cases).
In general, there is no one alive in a democracy who gets more crap from someone who isn't a sibling than from someone who is, unless that person is (or was raised as) an only child.
Despite the endless crap siblings give to each other, and despite the truly minimal crap that crazy people give to non-crazy people (not to mention the constant crap that crazy people get from non-crazy people), the go-to place for blaming is "check your meds".
Saying that the problem is mental illness both stigmatizes people with mental illness unfairly and makes sure that jerks don't have to take full responsibility for what they have actually chosen to do.
- This section was originally adapted from comments by Crip Dyke.
Links on intersections of mental illness, neurodivergence, and violence
This section is intended as a repository for links to resources related to mental illness, disability, neurodivergence, and violence. Resources will include scholarly research into the causes of violence and its putative links to mental health, informative articles on related subjects, and personal accounts of how popular associations between violence and mental health issues affect people's lives. While unusually triggering materials may be additionally marked, a trigger warning for ableism and for discussions of mass violence applies to all the links in this section.
- Now is the right time to talk about mental illness... sort of, by dude, sick! at Dissent of a Woman, affirms the importance of discussing mental health at any time, but clarifies that mental illness does not cause violence and expands on some of the complicated issues surrounding the way mental illness is and ought to be treated, asking that people approach the discussion of mental illness with humility and prioritize helping mentally ill people for its own sake.
Does mental illness cause violence?
On mass shootings
Although the information in them may still be useful in generalized discussions, the resources in this section deal specifically with mass shootings, including the Aurora theater shooting and the Connecticut school shooting.
The effects of associating mass shootings with mental illness
- [anti-autistic violence] Open Letter to the Media in the Wake of the Aurora Shootings, from Radical Neurodivergence Speaking, written by Autistic activist Kassiane S., discusses links between mental illness, neurodivergence, and violence. Contains statistics.
- Plea from the scariest kid on the block is a description by Kassiane S., Autistic activist, victim of bullying, and parental abuse survivor, of growing up as a member of various groups stigmatized as potentially violent and the effects of that stigma.
- When Children Die, It’s Time to Grieve and to Reflect, Not to Scapegoat by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg at Disability and Representation calls for an end to scapegoating of mentally ill and disabled people in responses to mass violence.
- All I want to do is weep, by Autistic Hoya, was written after the Aurora shooting in reaction to the event and anticipation of continued stigmatization of people with mental illnesses.
- When you tie shootings to mental illness by Kate Donovan discusses the effects of stigmatizing mentally ill people by linking mental illness to violence.
The "No True Human" fallacy
- This comment by commenter mesh on Pharyngula introduces the concept of the "No True Human" fallacy.
- On "Mental Illness," by Chris Clarke at Coyote Crossing, discusses the concept of the No True Human fallacy, how it functions, and the nonexistence of "normal."
- Blame and self-protective bias by Cuttlefish contains both a poem and some prose about blaming and stigmatizing mental illness to Other violent people and shield ourselves from blame.
Causes of mass shootings
- Inside the Minds of Mass Killers, by Daniel Lende at Neuroanthropology, features and discusses an ABC News interview with forensic psychologist Dr. Paul Mullen about mass killers. Lende advocates for "a more nuanced and culturally informed" discussion of mass shootings that does not stop at labelling shooters mentally ill, but rather addresses the role of underlying cultural scripts and social circumstances in creating and shaping these killers. Written after the shooting by Jared Loughner. Contains numerous links to further articles as well.
- Gun Violence and the search for a scapegoat, autism edition is a massive link roundup created and maintained by Liz Ditz at I Speak of Dreams, containing excerpts from a variety of blog posts and articles from autism communities about the Newtown, CT shooting.
- AWN’s Appeal to Media Sources Covering Newtown, CT, from the Autism Women's Network, clarifies the lack of link between autism and planned violence and pleads for more responsible reporting.
- ASAN Statement on Media Reports Regarding Newtown, CT Shooting, from the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, expresses sympathy for the victims of the shooting and their families, requesting that people speak out against attempts to link the violence with the Autistic or disabled community.
- [anti-autistic dehumanization] Responding to fear with facts, from A Diary of a Mom (by the parent of an autistic girl), responds briefly to a hateful remark on her Facebook page claiming that autistic people are dangerous. A good example of the stigma that autistic people face, if nothing else.
- Stepping into the void is from A Diary of a Mom.
- My Broken Back, from This raving mother from hell? You bet! reacts to the media speculation that the school shooter in CT had autism with sadness and anger.
- Autism, empathy, and violence: One of these things doesn't belong here, by a mother of an autistic boy, discussing emotion among Autistic people and the two separate concepts referred to as "empathy", and refuses autism as an explanatory factor in acts of "planned, social violence.
Responses to "I am Adam Lanza's mother"
In the days following the CT school shooting by Adam Lanza, a blog post describing the author's experiences as the mother of a mentally ill child with violent symptoms became viral. In the blog post, she included a photograph of her son, descriptions of his behavior, and the claim that he was a potential future mass shooter, in an effort to convince the reader of the need for improved mental health care. This section is for responses written to that post.
- I Was One of the Scary Kids, from Cracked Mirror in Shalott, describes the writer's experiences as a child with mental health disabilities which caused behaviors others around her found threatening, the stigma she continues to suffer, her painful discovery through private journals of how her mother experienced that period of her childhood, and her knowledge that mentally ill children are not lost causes.
- I am Liza L.'s kid, by Twitchy Woman at WeirdLaw, explains clearly several ethical problems with the blog entry and expresses sympathy and concern for the boy described in it.
- No, You Are Not Adam Lanza's Mother, and Yes, Your Kid's Privacy Matters
- You Are NOT Adam Lanza's Mother, by Mrs. Kerima Cevik at Autism Wars, whose son is Autistic, explains how the blogger's actions toward her son differ from those of Adam Lanza's mother, rebukes the blogger for adding to the stigma and risk faced by Autistic people by perpetuating false and dangerous beliefs about them, and demands an apology to the variety of people who have been and will be disrespected and harmed by the post.
- You are Not His Mother, by Kate Donovan at Freethoughtblogs, points out that the blogger does not have enough information about the shooter to assume that her son's behavior and illness are related to him in any way, and criticizes her post for painting mentally ill people with a broad brush.