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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ne'eman on Violence, Mental Health, and Discrimination

Ari Ne'eman of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, speaks to Al Jazeera about mental health policy issues arising in the wake of the Newtown shooting:

An excerpt:
Well, a number of folks reported from our membership an increase in discrimination. Many families reported that schools were now looking at their children with additional suspicion. People who had perhaps recently made the decision to come out of the closet about their diagnosis at work, or in their relationships, suddenly started to feel that may have been a mistake and that discrimination might be on the rise. One of [the] things that I found particularly concerning is that there was an effort on the part of some to try and say 'well we don’t really need to have a conversation about gun violence in this country, all we need to do is have a conversation about people with psychiatric disabilities'. And, frankly, that’s not the case. If we look at the research and evidence, there is no relation between Asperser’s syndrome and violent crime. If we look at the broader scope of disability, say another diagnosis, psychiatric disability or mental illness, we find a similar lack of correlation. In fact, even when we look at the small subset of people with psychiatric disabilities who some studies have found to have an increased correlation with violent crime, that correlation disappears when we control for substance abuse. That’s actually one of the only things that does tend to correlate with violent behavior—a history of substance abuse, but not so much a mental illness or an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.