So now I’m the caucus coordinator for my town for the campaign I’m working on. I don’t know why, since I’ve never been involved with a caucus before, but the town campaign coordinator asked me. I’m always interested in learning new things, so I said yes. That’s one of the things I love about working on campaigns: there’s always something new to learn, so I never get bored. So it’ll be fun to learn all the new stuff about caucuses.
Tonight I went to a forum with the five Democratic candidates for governor. I won’t bore you guys with all the details because most aren’t interesting or relevant to people who aren’t from my state or aren’t huge political nerds. But there was one issue that came up that’s relevant.
One of the questions was about controlling gun violence. There were the usual answers: stricter gun control laws, anti-gang programs, cutting back on the import of guns from states with fewer regulations, etc. Inevitably, one of the candidates mentioned that we need to have laws that require disclosure of mental health records if you want to buy a gun. I groaned because it ALWAYS comes up when there’s a mass shooting: “OMG TEH CRAZIES ARE GONNA KILL US!!!11!1!”
Then my candidate spoke. She said that we should conduct appropriate threat assessments for mentally ill people because most mentally ill people aren’t any more likely to be violent than anyone in the general population, and most are not a threat to the public. I wanted to run up on stage and hug her.
All too often, we’re portrayed as scary, especially those of us who have been hospitalized. During one of the 2012 presidential debates, Obama said, “We need to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals and mentally ill people.” He put me, a person with a serious mental illness, on the same level as a convicted murderer, and I’ve never murdered anyone. Aside from my martial arts practice and whacking my sisters as kids, I’ve never even hit someone. When our leaders make statements like his, people with mental illness suffer. It increases the stigma and makes people afraid of us.
Statistically, you’re more likely to be killed by a shark than a schizophrenic. The single greatest predictor of gun violence is alcohol use. Still, every time there’s a mass shooting, every news anchor in America wants to diagnose the shooter with a mental illness. But committing violence, even something as terrible and huge as a mass murder, does not necessarily mean the perpetrator is mentally ill. It is entirely possible to be full of hate and rage without being mentally ill.
I was very proud of my candidate tonight. She’s the first politician who’s made me feel like my mental illness doesn’t make me a bad person. She’s the first politician who made me feel like she wasn’t scared of me.