Thank you for writing about some of the pitfalls of Western State Hospital in the article “Western State Hospital plan says restraining patients is last resort” posted on Nov. 17. I would like to point out, however, that this article does little to mitigate the stigma experienced by those with a mental illness.
Unfortunately, media has a tendency to highlight incidents of violence perpetrated by people with mental illness which gives an inaccurate perception that people who have a mental illness are somehow more likely to engage in violent acts. The research tells us otherwise. For instance, one study by Elbogen and Johnson found that “severe mental illness did not independently predict future violent behavior.” (2009, pg. 152)
Ultimately, this perception ends up dictating public policy and impacting this already marginalized community of people. This article, for example, discusses the harmful nature of restraining individuals, but instead of talking about how strapping someone to a gurney causes harm, it points instead at one instance in which someone who was restrained was assaulted by another patient. What media chooses to focus on and the words that they choose to use have a tremendous impact and should be carefully considered.