Opinion: Mental Illness is not a Scapegoat

Featured Photo By: Myriam Alcala- school shootings are something that happens accross America, what they have in common is that the shooters are almost always white and have a mental illness. As a society, we need to stop using mental illness as a scapegoat and instead view shootings and mental health as two different issues.

Featured Photo By: Myriam Alcala- school shootings are something that happens accross America, what they have in common is that the shooters are almost always white and have a mental illness. As a society, we need to stop using mental illness as a scapegoat and instead view shootings and mental health as two different issues.

Jayah Caley, Opinion Editor

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“Duck and cover, this is not a drill.”

I stood still, trying not to breathe while comforting a friend who was hysterically crying. I knew my own cry could get us killed. I knew her cry could get us killed. I knew I could be killed. I texted my mom, “I love you.” I didn’t know if those would be the last words I ever said to her. 

No child deserves to feel the pain of not knowing whether they are going to make it out of their school alive. 

No parent should be afraid to send their child to school every morning. 

But, in today’s society mass school shootings are too often a reality. 

  • Sandy Hook Elementary. 26 dead. White male, 20 yr old. 
  • Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 17 dead. White male, 19 yr old.
  • Columbine High School. 15 dead. White male, 18 yr old. White male 17 yr old. 

Why are these men who are committing these mass shootings being dismissed as ‘mentally ill’?Are these acts of violence acts of domestic terrorism?

Justice is not given easily to those who are not white. We live in a society premised in racist tendencies. (Jayah Caley)

According to Navin Bapat, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina, “a well-worn definition for terrorism: an attack against a “non-combatant target” for political purposes that is intended to affect an audience larger than the immediate victims.” 

When a white male enters a school with an AR-15 to attack defenseless children, this white male meets the criteria for the first half of Bapat’s definition. Now, the second part of Bapat’s definition is where the argument for this attack being an ‘act of terror’ is lost in the eyes of the law. 

“Terrorists are among the most brutal and violent criminals in existence. What makes them so notable is that they attack civilians instead of military or government targets. Men, women, children – no one is safe against a terrorist attack.”  

I can’t seem to figure out any differences from what is being referred to as a “terrorist attack” and the reality of the mass shootings that white males are responsible for. 

Junior Kaleb Negussie said, “African Americans and Middle Eastern people are painted with broad strokes when it comes to what is considered terrorism while whites have the luxury of being examined on a case by case basis.”

The real problem is not only that these people aren’t being treated the same way as a terrorist, it’s that these individuals are being dismissed as ‘mentally disturbed’. 

When the media spreads such messages as ‘mentally ill’ or ‘mentally disturbed’ or ‘mentally insane,’ they are indirectly aiding in the defense of the individual who committed these mass shootings. 

In court, the defendant has the right to plead “not guilty by reason of insanity.” According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health), “this is used in criminal cases and is based on the principle that a person charged with a crime is too impaired due to mental illness to be held criminally responsible for their actions.” 

By allowing these murderers to plead in such a way, justice is not being served and these individuals are getting an easier way out. If the case is won under these pleads, those same people who have killed innocent people are taken to rehabilitation centers. 

Junior Julia Stacks said, “…the media shouldn’t try and create an excuse for what they did.”

Terrorist is term that holds more negative weight than mentally ill because it is easier to sympathize with someone who is considered sick or trouble. Terrorist is also a term that is given to people of color at a much faster rate than a white person. (Jayah Caley)

Mental illnesses affect a lot of people every single year. According to Mental Health First Aid, 50% of adults will experience some form of mental illness in their life; however, 50% of adults are not mass shooters. When the media presents these murders as “mentally ill” due to them struggling with anxiety and depression, it can come across as a shameful thing to experience things such as anxiety and depression.  

“I know plenty of people with depression and anxiety and none of them have killed anybody,” stated Senior Jacey Lowrey. 

As a society, we are failing to help bring awareness to those who struggle with mental illnesses; however, by slapping the label “mentally ill” on an individual who has created mass destruction without a medical professional’s opinion, is absurd and is a product of protecting white men in our society that labels people of color as terrorists. 

We need to bring more awareness around the subject of mental health to our youth specifically by using social media and other platforms that target those demographics.

Stacks stated, “By putting mental illness as a reason creates the stigma that creates stereotypes that all mentally ill people have the capacity to become terrorists.” This is an image that is being created for a large group of people in America and in the world. Stacks continued, “it makes it harder for people to talk about their struggles with mental illness because they could be cast as terrorists.” 

Mental illness is a reality that far too many faces. It is something that as a society, needs more knowledge about. 

 We also need to realize the harm that is being done when white men are being “let off” in a way for the same vicious crimes that are being done by men and women of color. 

We need to do better. We can do better.