Why mental illness is not a one-lane highway

Courtesy Thomas Nielsen/FlickR Creative Commons

Courtesy Thomas Nielsen/FlickR Creative Commons

In the last year, the amount of media coverage on mental health and gun control has been overwhelming. I remember it first starting with the Aurora shooting last year and has continued ever since. It’s been the case that James Holmes from Aurora and Adam Lanza from the Newtown shooting both appeared to have some sort of mental illness. With this kind of information has come people speculating about the danger of mental illness. However, let’s get clear about this. Not everyone who has a mental illness commit crimes! In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of crimes than the perpetrators.

This may not seem like the case with everything that has transpired, but let me now take this moment to introduce you to my friend, “multifinality.” Multifinality essentially just means that there are many outcomes for any one pathway. This is the opposite of equifinality where all roads lead to the same outcome. Make sense? No? Ok, let me give you an example. It may be that everyone who got diagnosed with alcohol dependence started drinking at an early age, but not everyone who had an early age of first drink went on to have alcohol dependence. Similarly, it may be that with the recent shootings, those with mental illness have gone on to commit these crimes, but definitely not everyone with mental illness goes on to such outcomes.

So what does all this means? It means that the way we think about mental illness has to shift. Let’s not stigmatize the millions of people with mental illness who are not even close to committing the kinds of crimes our country has seen in the last couple months. There are so many people out there suffering from something and many of us can’t even come close to understanding their reality – let’s not judge their reality because it’s different from ours. Let’s instead aim for a greater sense of empathy. Let’s not judge and think that people are dangerous because they are different. Most importantly, let us figure out a way to treat those who need help the most.

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Rubin Khoddam, PhD Clinical Psychology student at University of Southern California, founder of Psych Connection.

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Categories: Blogs by Rubin

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2 replies


  1. Treatment of mental illness lowers arrest rates and saves money | Psych Connection
  2. Why psychology is wrong in the way they think about mental illness… « Psych Connection

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