Mental Illness, Killing, and Racism

“Ha ha, don’t go on a killing spree now!”

“Mentally ill people are more likely to be led to hate.”

I heard both of these two things in response to me telling people I love that I am mentally ill. The second was responding in part to Dylann Roof’s murdering 9 African-American people, and lumped all mentally ill people into this category of potential killers and haters.

Now, it’s true: any one person is a potential killer, potential hater. But that is independent of whether a person is many other things.

This perception of mentally ill people as killers, as dangerous, is incredibly harmful. Everyday Feminism had a pretty good comic on schizophrenia recently that pointed out that those of us who aren’t neurotypical tend to be stigmatized very heavily. This stigmatization means that we’re less compassionate toward those of us who are the most likely to harm ourselves, and therefore less likely to advance narratives and laws that protect us.

And we are also more likely to ‘compassionately’ ascribe mental illness to white killers, which both stigmatizes those of us who really are mentally ill and furthers the problem of racism by trying to explain away white killers’ actions as having to do with something other than murderous intentions and/or racism and/or misogyny and/or classism.

Sometimes, we use suicide as a way to explain away suspicious death, such as in the case of Sandra Bland. Not only do we contend here with racism and misogyny, but also belittling of the very real dangers of suicidal ideation and mental illness.

We, the mentally ill, aren’t convenient props to be used to explain away racism and misogyny and classism. We’re not there to give lazy writers a convenient murderer.

Using us to explain away murder, misogyny, and racism only further perpetuates the systems that keep us all chained up.



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