Consider the Evidence: Is Their a Relationship Between Violence and Mental Illness?

The following statements have been circulated nationally today:

From the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law:

From Mental Health America

Because some of you wanted to have more shared about the relationship between mental illness and violence, I have lifted some web-links on this issue.  There are a multitude of others, if one googles the topic.

I am so glad that this issue has been well researched and that there have even been studies of the role of the media in mis-portrayal of mental illness as the culminating reason for some violent deaths.  Because, ironically, persons with psychiatric disabilities are actually more prone to be harmed or killed because of violence than they are to commit such violent acts, proportionally.

The discussion of this issue is an important one, because we must start dispelling the assumptions about what having a mental illness means.  These assumptions impact the values which define our service relationships and limit our abilities to reach for our own wellness and recovery, among other important consequences.

The links follow.  Please check out especially the video clips (last two links listed).  Mr. Harvey Rosenthal, a person whom I have known and respected for many years, does an excellent job educating an audience about the issue of violence and the troubling assumptions that impact our lives as ‘consumers.’

Mental Illness is Not an Explanation for Violence (published 1/10/11)

Dispelling the Myth of Violence and Mental Illness

Media Keeps the Myth Alive

UNC Professor Eric Elbogen:  You Tube Report on the Research

Harvey Rosenthal, a consumer advocate speaks:


Fact or Assumption and Why it Matters                                                                                                                                              Our perceptions of violence as a result of mental illness influence how we build service systems!                                                                                                                                                                                                            (1/10/11)  We mourn the deaths and injuries of so many individuals, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords.  But simple conclusions about mental illness and violence has  ramifications for the treatment and regard of persons with psychiatric disabilities.  Do we want a system based on the potential for violence while minimally considering how to promote recovery?  Is it possible that this kind of focus requires a heavier reliance on hospitalization while not emphasizing better life outcomes in the long run?  See more in the NEWS section, including informative web links.  But for starters, please consider what my friend Harvey Rosenthal says to the Association of Health Care Journalists (link just above this article).

Advocacy is Not Dead . . . but we may be killing it!

In an email discussion through one of our North Carolina advocacy web sites, it was stated that “real advocacy is dead in North Carolina.” The writer also expressed a concern that  advocacy in North Carolina has been compromised because of political or financial motivations.  For many years, this has been a frustration shared in many discussions across North Carolina.

Trust, an attribute of transparent relationships where all voices are equally respected, for too long has not been a characteristic of our politics, our practices, or our communications in this state.  And once trust is lost, much is required of all parties involved to truly regain it.  

For trust to be restored, people have to be willing to take risks.  Someone must risk taking a first step toward a plan, a path, a simple discussion, a potential solution–even though there is the chance that his or her efforts may be rejected or misinterpreted.  And sometimes, a person may even need to publicly and frankly admit they may have made a mistake, or that they have been wrong.

Distrust is like a cancer.  It spreads its worst effects so easily in conversations, accusations, and destructive tactics.  And worse, it spreads beyond one social group to another–as long as we are connected, then we are at risk of this cancer.  So there is distrust within groups and there is distrust across groups.  Even advocacy organizations have difficulty working together because of this lack of trust and suspiciousness. 

Now we face 2011.  A terrible budget shortfall now  threatens the services we do have.  With finite financial resources, North Carolina must offer better quality services that are more readily accessible, better connected, and values-based.  Further, our state will have to respond to the investigation of its failure to serve citizens, harboring them instead in large institutional settings.  Hopefully, thoughtful system changes will decrease crises and will promote well-being, honoring the strengths and individual will of consumers to improve the way they live–no matter what the disability. 

But how will our state make gains in any of these areas during this upcoming year without our first taking the necessary risks to restore trust and hope among ourselves as advocates?  Because now, more than ever, our involvement as consumers and otherwise rights-oriented advocates is necessary.  

And if we are to succeed, we need to be able to approach law-makers and administrative decision makers with a unified voice, real facts, more true stories shared by system users, and well-studied solutions.  Because legislators and DHHS will have to think like they have never thought before.  And they will need the help of the grass roots to develop real answers.

The rubber is about to hit the road.  Will we all be there?  Will we empower change to become progress?  Are we willing to put aside assumptions and work together?  Because there is too much at stake if we don’t.  So it is time to reach beyond our distrust and work together.

Please keep watching this site if you are interested in collaborating to gain real ground in 2011.  There will probably be a coordinating effort in early February.  As NC CANSO hears details, we’ll be sure to let you know! 

 or in any other capacity involved in our public mental health services.



The tension in Raleigh will grow in the next weeks and months as there will be new lawmakers filling chairs who are of a new party majority for the first time in 100 years!  Then the two opposing forces–poor economic times and federal demands for more services to ensure that citizens’ rights are respected (options to adult care home living) will create a stage where consumer activists must play a role!  This tension can be dynamic, producing positive change with your well-considered input.  Or the tension can just be a deterrant to any cooperation among lawmakers if they stall over opposing views.  Our voices can help make the difference! Be sure to stay tuned to this site and to the NC Mental Hope advocacy web site ( to keep up with news articles and impressions on the isssues. We may all need to go to Raleigh together this spring!



Bridging the Gap–No, Really!

The use of trained peers and peer-run agencies has reduced costs to lives by offering alternative ways to help people through tough times.  A similar program was once piloted at Dix Hospital, but no continual funding stream was developed to sustain it.  Now, peers are helping people beyond transitioning out of the hospital. 

The link below will take you to an  inspiring personal account of how peer ‘Bridging Beyond the Gap’ has been implemented by Baltic Street AEH, a prominent NYC peer run agency.   While this has developed in the state of New York, such can happen here, too!  This past year, the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, largely a consumer association, has worked to establish a peer bridger service working with Medicaid beneficiaries in New York City and Long Island.  Those interested can see for more details.

The article is found on page 18 of the newsletter from the United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association.

The link to the publication follows:

Happy, Hopeful New Year? It May Be Up to US!

This may be one of the most demanding years ever for persons with disabilities and those among them seeking to improve their well-being in North Carolina! We start this year with major questions:  

  • Will there be sufficient funding in the budget to pay for services for persons with disabilities? 
  • How will North Carolina respond to the established concern that we have too many citizens placed, without real choice, in adult care facilities?  What results will come from the investigation by the Department of Justice?
  • What services, coventional and more current, do we need to minimize the need for so much hospitalization?   How can strong peer support roles and consumer-operated services figure in to improving our system?
  • How can we promote better connected local community assets that will support the well-being and personal growth, and even in many cases full recovery of persons? 

The questions could be much more detailed as we think about the actual services that are to be offered, the reimbursement rates of these services, the need to move toward integrating types of care so that the whole person becomes healthier in mind, body, and spirit.  Et cetera. 

The point is clear:  It is time for us as ‘consumers’ or self-advocates to consider how involved we can be and should be in the change process.  Because things are going to change–but whether they will improve will be largely up to us as persons who personally understand living with a mental illness or with a developmental disability or who are trying to live a life free of a former addiction.  WE are the “customers” so our voices can no longer be minimized by administrators or lawmakers or local leaders, etc.  The quality, sustenance, and availability of services in the future will depend much more on the voice of the consumer in system advocacy.  And we as consumers will need to help to build an alliance of multiple voices so we can get our messages to the right people, and soon! 

So please keep checking this site and those of other organizations as we try to develop a united strategy together!  Our futures depend on this!