The Editor, Recent stories of violent crime in the media have not only left local communities shaken – it has led to a focus in public conversations on how individuals suffering serious mental illness and substance use issues are making our communities unsafe.
Individuals suffering serious mental illness and substance use issues continue to be misunderstood and marginalized. People who suffer from serious mental illness and struggle with substance use issues generally do not commit crime. Only a small part of this population exhibit violent behaviour; however, it is this population that often gets highlighted in the media.
The fact is that about one in five people experience a mental disorder or substance use problem in their lifetime. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with mental illness and substance use often prevents those who have early onset challenges from getting the help they need and preventing a more serious health issue from developing.
It is time to recognize that mental illness and substance use is not just something that happens to "them."
Mental health and substance use issues impact our coworkers, our families, our friends and our children. We need to continue to have conversations about mental illness and substance use, but in a way that emphasizes rehabilitation and recovery, not the stigma.