Usually I’m a news junkie, but I’ve been avoiding the news since the Colorado shooting. I can’t cope with it.
For starters, guns scare me. I grew up around them: my father was a cop, and my grandfather and uncles were all Marines. I’m even a good mark with a pistol.
But I was also threatened over and over with guns. My father’s service pistol, mostly, though sometimes with his personal weapon. I know what it feels like to have a gun pointed at you or even pressed up against your head. That’s something I’ll never be able to forget, so I’ll never escape my visceral terror when I see or hear about guns.
Then there’s the fact that every time there’s a “crazed gunman” incident, from Columbine to Gabrielle Giffords to The Dark Knight Rises, all the news media start talking about how the shooter was mentally ill and fell through the cracks. Therefore, they say, we need to make it much easier to commit people to psychiatric hospitals. (This article, written in response to the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, makes me both incredibly rage-y and incredibly PTSD-y.)
The laws already make it way too easy to commit people involuntarily. I know. I’ve been there. Supposedly, the standard is “imminent danger of harm to self or others,” but that’s so vague as to be almost meaningless. Because of the paternalism and need for control that shape mainstream psychiatric treatment, a wide variety of symptoms get characterized as “imminent risk of harm.” I was committed for non-suicidal self-injury and locked up into a hospital where I was repeatedly assaulted. The hearing didn’t evaluate my risk beyond the judge asking the psychiatrist, “Is this person seriously mentally ill and in need of treatment?” That didn’t prove I was a danger; that just proved I was sick. And I never had any real chance to defend myself.
And god knows no one consider the imminent risk of harm to me in the hospital. They called it treatment, but it was trauma. I was raped over and over and over. No one stopped it. No one even noticed. Once they’ve saved society from you, you no longer matter.
Most people with mental illnesses are not violent. This study puts the risk of being killed by a psychotic person at 1 in 14.3 million, meaning you’re three times more likely to be struck by lightning. Still, every time someone does something violent and horrible, every news outlet has a panel of experts saying the perpetrator was mentally ill (typically, their TV diagnosis is schizophrenia), even though these so-called experts never met the person. Even if the perpetrator is/was actually schizophrenic, these experts don’t communicate that mental illness is not a predictor of violence, and the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent. And then they wonder why there’s such stigma attached to a psychiatric diagnosis.
I’m sorry, I’m not organizing my thoughts here very well. I can’t really think straight because I’m too busy fighting off memories from the state hospital. I don’t want to remember, but I can’t stop.