Here’s the response I sent MoveOn as an explanation of why I refused to sign this petition.
It’s a good idea in theory, but the reality is that increased funding for mental health will only result in more incarceration and drugging of people with mental illness. These approaches isolate people with mental illness from their communities, and isolation–not mental illness–is what breeds violence.
It’s entirely possible for someone to be legally sane but also hate-filled and violent. We feel more comfortable blaming mental illness for violence because it provides an easy answer to what is actually a much more complex issue. That greatly increases stigma against people living with mental illness.
Most people with mental illnesses are not violent toward others; you’re more likely to be killed by a lightning strike than by someone with schizophrenia. But policy makers blame us and our illnesses for violence. During one of the presidential debates, President Obama said we need to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals and people with mental illness, implying that mentally ill people are just as bad as violent criminals. The NRA wants to force us to register our mental illness. Again, these things isolate us from our communities, and that’s bad for us and our communities.
I do believe we should limit the access people with mental illness have to guns–but because we’re much more likely to inflict violence on ourselves than on others. And I do believe we need better and more affordable access to mental healthcare–but we need holistic approaches and peer services instead of more hospitals and drugs.