Soapbox Alert: Terrorism is not a Mental Health Issue

What happened last night in Paris was wrong. Very, very wrong. And when people take active steps to distance the actions of those who initiated the attacks from Islam as a religion, they are very right to do so. But when they do so by saying that the attackers are/were mentally ill, they are doing more harm than good.

Because living with mental health issues is hard enough, without people comparing me (you) to a terrorist.

Because talking about mental health problems is hard enough, without people thinking I (you) might explode into violence at any moment. Or me (you) thinking that people might think I (you) might explode into violence at any moment.

Because hatred is a condition of the heart.

Because if you say that it is a mental health issue, what then? People with mental health problems should be locked away in case they might be misled and start killing people? Let’s put terrorism in the DSM-VI (that’s the next version of the book for diagnosing psychiatric conditions), complete with checklist and everything.

Terrorism is not a mental health issue. It’s not a religious issue. It’s much more complex than that. It’s about power, and control, and fear, and hatred. It’s about prejudice, perception, and a million other things I don’t understand because I’m not a terrorist and never will be.

So let’s not add to the stigma of already vulnerable groups (on religious, mental health, gender, racial, life history, or preference for pineapple jelly grounds) by lumping them in with the terrorists.

Rant over.

Can I just add that my thoughts and prayers are with those affected by these acts of violence – in Beirut, in Paris and elsewhere. To those that had to witness these atrocities and survived, to first responders, to the family and friends of those who have died, to those who now face greater abuse because of the actions of a few, to all those left heart-broken and forever carrying an unanswerable “why?” – I am truly sorry. If there were any way to make your road easier to walk, I would.


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