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Jason Stephenson - Sleep Meditation Music / YouTube

It’s become almost a cliche at this point—every time America sees another mass shooting, pundits and politicians blame our country’s gun violence problem on “mental illness.” Rather than acknowledging the role of the gun lobby in politics, or the renewed rise of racially motivated hate in recent years, the national conversation has become dominated by discussion of mental illness as the sole cause of gun deaths in this country. (Curiously, none of the politicians spouting the “mental illness” party line seem interested in making mental health care less expensive or easier to access.)

On Monday, in the wake of two high-profile shootings over the weekend, Donald Trump even called for people with mental illnesses to be involuntarily committed. In reality, research has shown that there’s no link between mental illness and violent crime, even “serious” mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. People with a mental health diagnosis are actually 10 times more likely to be the victims of a violent crime than to commit one. When it comes to predicting violent behavior, a history of domestic violence or hatred toward minority groups is a much more reliable indicator.

Fed up with the misinformation dominating the news, mental health blogger Cara Lisette took to Twitter and started a new hashtag campaign: #IAmNotDangerous. Thousands of Twitter users have joined in, sharing their personal stories and fighting back against the stigma of their diagnosis.

Some users compared their struggles with mental illness to other medical issues:

Others pointed out that despite having much higher rates of depression and other mental illnesses, women make up only a tiny fraction of those responsible for mass shootings:

Many posted photos of themselves, listing their interests, hobbies, and facts about their lives — showing that behind every diagnosis is a human being.

Even Stranger Things star David Harbour joined in, calling the rush to blame mass shooting deaths on people with mental illness “cowardly”:

Elsewhere on Twitter, users called out racism and white supremacy as the true root causes of shootings such as those in El Paso:

Others pointed out that only white shooters get the benefit of the doubt—that people of color aren’t able to blame their crimes on “mental illness” …

… and that crimes committed against POC rarely receive the same treatment.

While one hashtag campaign won’t change the way we discuss gun violence overnight, activists are taking important steps toward changing the conversation. And, in the end, it’s clear that the campaign is showing people who struggle with mental illness that they are far from alone.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.



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