The urge to blame people with a mental illness

Jeff Ernst, of Dassel, Minn., is weary of being the scapegoat for mass shootings in America.

Ernst has a mental illness, he acknowledges in an op-ed in today’s Star Tribune, and he writes that we’re all too eager to accept the portrayal of the mentally ill alongside people who’ll kill innocent people.

When I reached adulthood, a series of tragedies shattered my youthful invincibility and left me teetering on the edge, drifting through life.

At times my lungs felt so tight that it seemed the only way to achieve relief would be to pierce my rib cage with a knife.

Afraid of the stigma, I resisted help until self-mutilation led to a stay in the hospital. Even then, I told the doctors that I didn’t need to be there. I wasn’t like the others, I thought.

Years later, I finally came to terms with my illness and accepted that it wasn’t a passing feeling, but something that would be with me for the rest of my life. Only then was I able to step onto the path toward recovery.

Even in the worst of episodes, I was never a threat to anyone but myself. In fact, my greatest fear is doing harm to others.

This is a common trait among the afflicted. Rather than the shocking lack of empathy displayed by mass murderers, we are overwhelmed by it.

Watch how the connection is made. Yesterday, for example, we were presented with this headline from NPR.

It’s a factual element of the story. But it fails to convey the significance, leaving us only with the connection, which Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, told Kerri Miller on Monday that is mythical.

And then there is this tweet, which linked mass murder with mental illness by declaring that there are questions, while simultaneously reporting that there shouldn’t be.

What is the cost of conveying a causal relationship if research says it doesn’t exist?

Ernst suggests it further diminishes those who may want help.

He says he’ll probably be denied employment opportunities just because he told us so.