Statement of Ken Duckworth, MD
NAMI Medical Director
April 18, 2007
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) extends its sympathy to all the families who have lost loved ones in the terrible tragedy at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. We are an organization of individuals and families whose lives have been affected by serious mental illnesses.
Despite media reports, Cho Seung Hui, the shooter in the tragedy, may not actually have had a serious mental illness relative to other diagnoses. But the possibility opens the door for reflection on the nature of mental illnesses—what they are and what they are not— with regard to symptoms, treatment and risks of violence.
The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that the likelihood of violence by people with mental illness is low. In fact, "the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small." More often, people living with mental illness are the victims of violence.
Read the full NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) article here.
I and my father had a discussion about this last night. He felt that mentally ill people are dangerous. I told him he was more likely to be harmed in a car accident than by an altercation with a mentally ill person. It is this kind of stigma and narrow mindedness that those of us with mental illness have to continually fight. Statistically, mentally uninteresting people (my term) are far more likely to commit crimes than mentally ill people. You can look at the prison population to prove that easily. It saddens me that even my own father falls prey to this tired and overused portrayal of mentally ill people. Maybe one day we will be free at last to quote the late and great Dr. King. The Cho Seung Hui’s of the world certainly don’t make it any easier for us to overcome these baseless fears.