Debunking Mental Health Myths: Myth #3: Mental illness often leads to violent and dangerous behavior

Below: Over 70,000 Providence core leaders and staff, across five states, received this article in their weekly e-newsletter as part of an internal and external (social media) thought-leadership communications initiative. The 5-article “myth” series coincided with a major donation and long-term commitment by Providence related to mental health awareness and services.  Also see social-media results farther below.

When news of a shocking incident such as a mass shooting first reaches us on TV, it’s likely that we’ll hear the words “mental illness” as the media speculates why it happened. But less than 5 percent of violence in the U.S. is caused by people with mental illnesses. The truth is, a mentally ill person is more likely to be a victim of violence – at four times the rate of the general public.

“The majority of individuals living with mental illness function competently in their family, work, and community roles,” said Cheryl Sackrider, director of drug and alcohol services and intervention center, Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, in Everett, Wash.

About one in five adults in America experiences a mental illness. When people in this group are involved with violence, severe conditions such as untreated psychosis or co-occurring drug or alcohol abuse are typically contributing factors. That’s where our mental health resources, from 24/7 triage phone lines to crisis intervention and recovery centers, come into play. 

Our commitment to awareness and prevention

Early identification, awareness and intervention are important.

“Reality is there are situations where a person with a mental illness has committed a crime and/or harmed others. This is what is reported in the news but is statistically very rare.  Education and awareness are paramount in addressing the public fear and changing the myth,” said Sackrider.

With the launch of the Providence St. Joseph Health Institute for Mental Health and Wellness, we will work together to ease access to mental health care and services for people in their time of need. This is important to enhance the ability of our communities to identify family members and friends who need immediate help. Learn more about how the institute will ignite a movement around mental health on CEO and President Rod Hochman’s blog.

Resources for getting help
Call 911 if there is an urgent mental health crisis. There are also Providence resources available if someone close to you is at risk.

Mental Health Myths and Facts: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/myths-facts/

National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Public-Policy/Violence-and-Gun-Reporting-Laws​

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