Mental Illness and Gun Violence / Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

Mentally ill people don’t contribute to gun violence any more than any other group, but senseless violence strikes the public as shocking. Intervening to prevent all the different kinds of violence by different groups and people is important. Most potential perpetrators hide their intentions or anger, and people with serious mental illness can too, but often mentally ill people are obvious to everyone around them before they act violently.

Society as a whole, and down to every personal level, is in tension between embracing and being embraced by every other member. Any change how we commit ourselves to keeping in touch with each other is part of our social world. We constantly hear messages to feel part of life (and messages to reject this and lash out at people). Maybe a look at one alternative to how we look at ourselves may be helpful in how to understand what might work better.

Everyone is familiar with how sports are organized at high schools. Varsity and Junior Varsity are usually the only divisions. A similar but completely different way to divide students is to include all the students, and divide them all into different groups. Varsity, Junior Varsity, Fresh Person Varsity, General, Big Group and All Group. These are split into male and female  co-ed and single sex teams in fluid and informal ways. All for the same or all of the  sports. Even the disabled participate — everyone does. This brings about a remarkable social change among the student body. When outreach to bring struggling students into the social fabric is prioritized, all of the potential people who could go on to act out violently are reached.

Army Sgt. BoweBergdahl was homeschooled. His father describes him as “psychologically isolated.” What he missed in school contributed to his actions. What those U.S. soldiers around him lacked in having skills to reach him also contributed to what happened.


About mentalrecovery

I work in a large mental health clinic and am active in NAMI
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