RACHEL BELLE

WA’s largest mental health org: ‘Violence is not a product of mental illness’

May 27, 2022, 6:31 AM
Memorials for victims of Tuesday's mass shooting at a Texas elementary school (Getty Images)...
Memorials for victims of Tuesday's mass shooting at a Texas elementary school (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Since Tuesday’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, a lot of people, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, have blamed the tragedy on mental illness. But Lauren Simonds, CEO of NAMI Washington, the National Alliance of Mental Illness, says that is simply misguided.

“Violence is not a product of mental illness,” Simonds said. “Violence is a product of untreated anger. The contribution of mental illness to overall gun violence in the United States is smaller than two percent. When we do see mental illness involved in gun violence, it’s really gun violence against one’s self because more than 60% of gun deaths in the United States are suicides. Mental illness is a significant underlying cause of suicide. But mental illness is not an underlying cause of community violence.”

Simonds says there are many other warning signs we should look for.

“The risks of violence increase slightly if one has co-occurring substance use or dependency or if one grew up in a setting where there was violence or childhood abuse,” said Simonds. “If they were bullied or, quite honestly another contributing factor is, just being young and male. Are they isolated and young and male? Do they have impulsivity and anger issues? People have a really hard time understanding how somebody could walk in somewhere and shoot people and kill them. They must be mentally ill. What else could it possibly be? It’s untreated anger, and anger is not a mental illness.”

She says this false blame contributes hugely to the stigma around mental illness.

“There can be the assumption that: give us a gun if we have a mental illness and we’re likely to go out and kill somebody,” said Simonds. “And that is not true. So it definitely contributes to the stigma of having a mental illness and people’s willingness to share that they have mental illness. And I think it’s also important to note that other countries experience the same amount of mental illness in their populations and we don’t see mass gun violence or even significant gun violence. And these are countries who, when they have had a mass gun violence incident, their leaders have created common-sense gun laws, which is something that our leaders are unwilling to do. They have clearly accepted that guns are more important than the lives of the citizens of our country.”

But she wants to be clear: NAMI does not advocate for gun rights.

Simonds finds it interesting that gun advocates are using mental illness as a scapegoat, since it’s a topic this country mostly ignored until the pandemic, when worldwide isolation affected nearly everyone’s mental health. Before the pandemic, depression or anxiety was seen by many as a weakness or an excuse.

“Every time there is community gun violence in our country we have been sending out press releases,” said Simonds. “Just a few weeks ago, we sent out a press release about the shooting in Buffalo, which was incredibly racially motivated. I didn’t get one press call. Since I sent out our press release this morning, all I’ve done is respond to press calls. So it just really depends upon on what catches the media’s eye at what time.”

Simonds would like to see the media cover mental health more often, through stories not related to gun violence.

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal.” Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram!

  • listen to rachel belleTune in to KIRO Newsradio on weekdays to hear Rachel Belle.
Who is Rachel Belle?

Your Last Meal

Rachel Belle

(Photo courtesy of Elderwise) Participants enjoy conversation and creative arts at the Elderwise ad...
Rachel Belle

The Memory Hub is a new Seattle community center for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s

The Memory Hub is a free place for people with dementia and Alzheimer's, and their families and caregivers, to access all kinds of programs and support. 
17 hours ago
(Photo by Kevin Schmid/Unsplash)...
Rachel Belle

Search and Rescue doing more rescues due to inexperience, social media

Your rescue may be interrupting these volunteers in the middle of dinner, but to be clear, they have dedicated their lives to this work that they love.
17 days ago
Doctors perform a vasectomy on November 13, 2015. (SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP via Getty Images)...
Rachel Belle

It can be harder to get a tubal ligation or vasectomy than it is to get a gun

Reighter went to a doctor requesting tubal ligation. But she was denied. Not for medical reasons, but because of the doctor's personal values.
23 days ago
(KIRO Newsradio)...
Rachel Belle

The avocado breakup: why a Seattle restaurant (and many others) scrapped avocados from their menu

Grand Central Bakery and Café joins many restaurants around the world in removing avocado from its menu, due to environmental and political factors. 
27 days ago
Kat Lieu bakes in her home kitchen. (Photo by Jake Young)...
Rachel Belle

A Renton woman inspired bake sales around the world to stop Asian hate

Renton's Kat Lieu created Subtle Asian Baking on Facebook to create a community conversation around baking Asian treats, but it transformed into a fundraising effort that's raised tens of thousands of dollars. 
1 month ago
Owner Sophia Walker believes in fitness AND doughnuts. (Photo courtesy of Sophia Walker)...
Rachel Belle

Seattle’s No Judgement Fitness is a safe space for the LGBTQ community to workout

No Judgement Fitness is mirror free and focuses on body positivity, not weight loss. 
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
WA’s largest mental health org: ‘Violence is not a product of mental illness’