Two steps forward, one step back

Published on June 6, 2016

Dear editor: With any civil rights movement in our history, the flow fluctuates — momentum gains, momentum wanes and sometimes, there are setbacks.

I am very disappointed recently with the media entities in our province and their contribution to yet another setback in the fight against prejudice and discrimination of individuals living with mental health issues.

The media is a very powerful entity. It shapes social thinking, social beliefs and, in turn, impacts social behaviour. With something as simple as word choice, the media frames our understanding and judgment of many situations. It is a gross abuse of power when media propagates prejudice and discrimination of a particular group, especially when it is based on making false connections.

“The mentally ill” do not commit violent acts or kill people. People commit violence, people with a wide range of social, cultural, economic and medical histories. Sharing information that is not relevant to the facts simply creates a false causality. Ironically, this false relationship creates a less safe community for the very individuals our society is pointing the finger at — in this case, those of us living with mental illness.

Sharing medical facts and lifedescriptors are not regularly published when events happen and certainly would not be tolerated when it is implied (and sometimes blatantly stated) that a specific group is linked to the actions of one. It is not stated that a perpetrator of a crime does not have a history of mental health needs. It is not reported that, in fact, the majority of crimes are committed by those who do not have a history of mental illness. Gathering unbiased, factual data and delivering the message without endangering an innocent group of people — that, my friend, is true and moral reporting.

It is true that some individuals with mental illness commit crimes. People do violent acts. Because over 100,000 people in our province live with a mental illness (actual, factual statistics), it only stands to reason that some crimes will be committed by individuals who have a medical history. Further reasoning would suggest some of these medical histories would include issues of a mental health nature. It is incorrect, reckless (and should be criminal) to imply or blatantly state that all individuals within that same group are violent and need additional motoring.

The most recent violent death in St. John’s was a very tragic event. Someone needs to — and will be — held accountable for their actions. What we do not need is the gross distortion of facts and the creation of a link to mental illness where a link simply does not exist.

I am sincerely hoping for change.

Paula Corcoran-Jacobs St. Mary’s Bay