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Advocates Call for Help, Not Stigma, for the Mentally Ill

Monday, May 18th, 2015

hands togetherLast month, a homeless man with a history of mental illness allegedly shot and killed Ana Charle, director of the Bronx shelter where he was living. In response to the tragic death, the New York Daily News issued an editorial calling on state and city officials to “lock away the dangerously mentally ill.” Now two prominent mental health advocates have set the record straight about mental illness and violence.

In a powerful letter to the Daily News, Phillip A. Saperia, CEO of Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies, and Christy Parque, executive director of Homeless Services United, recognized the heartbreaking loss Ana Charle’s death caused the community, and admonished the paper for reinforcing misinformation about mental illness.

“[This] editorial perpetuates the false notion that people living with mental illness are violent,” Saperia and Parque stated. “In fact, mentally ill individuals are much more likely to be the victims of violence than perpetrators.” The authors also cautioned against further stigmatizing the mentally ill, condemning the editorial’s use of the word “monsters” to describe people with mental disorders. “Such stigma only deters people from seeking help for their mental health problems,” they wrote.

Across the United States, severe mental illness impacts one in five homeless individuals, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Saperia and Parque’s message: finding new and better ways to help these individuals is the best approach to honoring the memory of a courageous woman who worked to do just that.

Source: New York Daily News

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