Advocates for the Mentally Ill Push Back Against 'Stigma'

May is mental health awareness month, and local officials who work with the mentally disabled are increasingly worried that all of the talk of a connection between mental illness and mass shootings are unfairly stigmatizing the mentally ill, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Mark Stoeltje with the San Antonio Clubhouse, which works with people with mental illnesses, says it gets frustrating.

"Studies have shown that 3% of people with mental illness are prone to violence, and 3% of the general population is prone to violence, so there is no correlation," he said.

But Stoeltje says whenever that is a mass shooting outrage, like the incidents in Sutherland Springs in November and at Parkland High School in Florida in February, his clients suffer.

"When there is that perception that mental illness means you are prone to violence, that simply shuts people down."

He says when a job applicant, for example, reveals that he or she is receiving treatment for mental illness or even has received treatment in the past, it often ends the interview.

Stoeltje says most people with mental illness are productive members of society and almost none are any more prone to violence than anybody else, and we need to get over the stigma of mental illness to make it possible for more mentally ill individuals to become gainfully employed.

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