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    Letters

    A hair-trigger tendency to target mental illness

    We’re too quick to blame society’s ills on mental health issues

    As a mental health provider, I am dismayed at how quickly we jump to blaming society’s ills on mental health issues, as in the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

    Mental health issues do not cause violence. Indeed, they explain a small fraction of cases that disproportionately gain media attention. There are millions of people who suffer from mental illness or disorders, such as depression or trauma, and they have never done anything antisocial or illegal.

    Behavioral issues, on the other hand, can increase risks for violence. These include substance abuse, antisocial behaviors, and poor problem-solving and anger-management skills. Mental health professionals help such clients to modify behaviors and learn safe ways to communicate needs and express anger, but the final responsibility for their choices belongs to them.

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    People who work in mental health cannot be viewed as a solution for social problems. Our job is to treat and teach, not to fix the system. We cannot and should not be a substitute for parents, society, or police. When we do our best to address systemic problems — and we usually do — this must not be taken for granted.

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    Singling out people with mental health issues diverts us from looking into true causes of school shootings. As the old saying goes, for every complex problem there is a simple solution, and it’s wrong. When we slip into the “simple solution” trap, we further stigmatize those who are already struggling with difficult life circumstances. This makes them less likely to reach out for help, which in turn can increase risks.

    Elena Cherepanov

    Boston

    The writer is the lead clinician for refugee behavioral health services at Lynn Community Health Services. Her views here are her own.

    Trump ducks solutions on guns, instead stigmatizes the mentally ill

    Our president once again will cowardly duck the scourge of automatic weaponry and instead will stigmatize people with mental illness. Studies note that the connections between mental illness and mass shootings are weak. As a parent of a child with significant mental illness, I am appalled at Donald Trump’s suggestion that mental illness must be the cause. (This is the same president who had no problem attempting to cut Medicaid and thus the services it provides to people with mental illness.)

    As a longtime gun owner who is from a family of gun owners, many of whom are hunters, I recognize that the Constitution gives me the right to have a gun for my and my family’s protection. However, I strongly support the regulation of automatic weapons and the removal of these weapons from the public’s hands. Outside of the military, I cannot ever imagine an instance where anyone would need an automatic weapon.

    Mr. Trump, wake up. People can be evil and not mentally ill.

    Susan Smith

    Winthrop