In light of the mass school shooting in Florida, PEERS emphasizes the importance of community healing and rejects the notion that mental health is tied to acts of violence.

The recent tragedy on a high school campus in Parkland, Florida has caused unspeakable pain to spread across the nation in the last 24 hours. Communities all over the country are uniting to grapple with the tragic reality of the 17th instance of gun violence in U.S. schools this year. Lists of ways to directly support victim’s loved ones are circulating across social media outlets and throughout email accounts. Vigils are being scheduled. Faculty members are initiating methods to help students deal with their grief in academic settings.

Yet, while pleas to nurture the emotional wounds of our youth at this time are prevalent, a troubling fact still remains: the false depictions of individuals with mental health issues as people who are inherently violent sends the wrongful message that mental health challenges are to be feared, alienated, criminalized.

The belief that there’s a correlation between mental health and violence couldn’t be further from the truth. Studies have shown that individuals with mental health challenges are actually a vulnerable population that’s more likely to experience acts of violence against them. Not only are people with mental health issues usually victimized, but they’re also more likely to die by homicide, have difficulty finding and keeping jobs, and risk financial/social exploitation. Blaming mental health for atrocities like this week’s unfathomable event is simply a cop-out that deflects from larger public concerns and deepens stigma.

As caring humans, social justice advocates, and community educators, we stand against the fear and hatred associated with all forms of mental health discrimination. Together, we can work to create a culture that condemns the demonization of mental health issues and grow safe spaces where people feel empowered to talk openly about their challenges so they can heal and help others heal.

Additional related sources on the misconception surrounding mental health and violence:

By Lyndsey Ellis