Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fighting generalizations with science and truth

There is a big difference between someone who has schizophrenia, is in treatment, and is doing well vs. someone like William Bruce.

For too long, it seems the only choice in public discourse about the role of violence in schizophrenia has been to demonize EVERYONE with schizophrenia as being potentially violent, or to preach that NOBODY with schizophrenia has a greater risk of violence than anyone else. Neither is reasonable or logical.

Implying that all people are violent is simply not true and is hurtful to the majority of people with schizophrenia who are taking medication and not violent. Failing to acknowledge that under some circumstances some people with schizophrenia have an increased risk of violence is not only misleading, it can lead to dangerous situations when caregivers, police, or the mentally ill do not recognize the warning signs such as paranoid delusions.

We are grateful that the editors at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel chose a third option – clarifying who of that larger group really needs humane intervention and helping them. Educating the general public to not paint everyone with either the broad brush of violence or the broad brush of nonviolence is the best way to not only remove stigma from the majority of people with mental illnesses, but also to avert tragedies.

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