A fine op-ed in yesterday’s Seattle Times:
Reaction to escape of state-committed patient stigmatizes people with mental illness, By Jennifer Stuber
…Phillip A. Paul escaped from an outing organized by Eastern State Hospital, where he is committed as a forensic (legal) patient. However, what makes this story sad to me was the misinformed and sensational reaction of some news stories and even by local and state officials.
Many of the news stories had a headline that linked mental illness to violence. “Insane Killer,” “Mentally ill killer,” “Schizophrenic killer” were used repeatedly. Research has continuously found that a diagnosis of major mental illness alone does not predict violence. The severity of Paul’s symptoms and his history of violence and criminality are a valid concern, but not his diagnosis alone.
This type of reporting contributes to a public misperception that people with mental illness are violent, which leads to stigma and discrimination that is a barrier to treatment, employment and housing for millions of Americans living with mental illness….
Read the rest at the Seattle Times, and then please open a couple of Freestyle Volunteer stories about how some of our Seattle neighbors with mental illness are successfully building lives for themselves. “Alfred,” “Gerald,” “Mina,” and “Nancy” all have serious chronic mental illnesses, yet they work or go to school, live independently, and are good companions over coffee.