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Don’t link mental illness with criminal behavior | READER COMMENTARY

A Biden Harris lawn sign in Lutherville has been defaced with red spray paint. October 22, 2020
A Biden Harris lawn sign in Lutherville has been defaced with red spray paint. October 22, 2020 (Barbara Haddock Taylor)

The Baltimore Sun has done an incredible job of highlighting the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps that’s why the comment in your editorial “The signs point toward an uptick in political violence” (Oct. 22) suggesting that the perpetrators of political violence may be experiencing, “some mental illness aggravated by the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic” seemed so out of place.

There’s no question that people are experiencing heightened mental health concerns because of the pandemic. When compared to the same periods last year, Americans report increased symptoms of depression and anxiety along with more suicidal ideation. Crisis lines are seeing exponential increases in calls. Callers to the organization where I work, the Pro Bono Counseling Project, are requesting mental health support for complicated grief and past traumas that have resurfaced during the pandemic.

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There is absolutely no indication, though, that there is a connection between experiencing the types of mental health concerns that have been influenced by the pandemic (depression, anxiety, grief, suicidal ideation, trauma) and perpetrating political violence. In fact, statements linking the two perpetuate the stigma associated with mental health concerns and can keep people from seeking care when they need it most. Mental health care is available and works.

Amy Greensfelder, Baltimore

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The writer is executive director of the Pro Bono Counseling Project.

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