Creating a scapegoat

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Like everyone else, I was deeply saddened and angered by the events at Sandy Hook elementary school and in Aurora, Colo. I am also nauseated at the attempts to shift the blame at whichever target is available, fashionable and weak.

I am specifically referring to U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's Dec. 30 Forum commentary ("Let Newtown Inspire Action"). In this case, the scapegoats are the mentally ill. Never mind that statistics show that people diagnosed with mental illness are no more prone to commit acts of violence than the general population. In his piece, Mr. Murphy covers his derriere by stating, "We do know that the vast majority of those with mental illness never become violent."

I must admit that it is quite a feat to write a long diatribe on the topic of violence without once mentioning the word "gun." I wish the space were available to comment on each paragraph of Mr. Murphy's piece. I will address myself to only two points. The congressman writes, "It is not only what's in a person's hands that makes his act violent, it's what is in his mind." A bit of information for Mr. Murphy: No matter what is in a person's mind, he or she will cause much less damage if what is in his or her hand is a stick or a knife rather than an AK-47.

My second point is this: Of course, let us by all means do what Mr. Murphy advocates in the form of research, treatment and change in perceptions of mental illness. We shall become a better and more humane society. But let us not use mental illness as a scapegoat for the violence that plagues our society. At best, it is only one factor and a very minor one at that.

I trust that when budget time comes around, Mr. Murphy will vote his convictions and increase, or at least not decrease, the budget of the National Institute of Mental Health and try to persuade his fellow Republicans to follow his example.

RAY NAAR
Point Breeze

The writer is a psychologist and former associate director of the Community Mental Health Center at the former St. Francis General Hospital.


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