On Thursday, December 3, 2015, New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas Kristof, usually a strong proponent of human rights, recklessly stated that mental health and gun violence are connected and supported the Murphy bill – the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646).
Among other things, Kristof stated that: “As for mental health, Republicans are right that it is sometimes related to gun violence. But it’s also true that in some cases their budget cuts have reduced mental health services. To his credit, Representative Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican, has introduced a bill that would improve our disastrous mental health system, perhaps reducing the number of people who snap and turn to violence. Yet some Democrats are wary of the bill because Republicans like it. That’s absurd: We need better mental health services just as we need universal background checks.”
You can read the entire piece here:
What you can do:
- Email Kristof at: Kristof@nytimes.com
- Tweet to Kristof @NickKristof
- Write a letter to the editor to the New York Times. Their guidelines for submitting a letter to the editor can be found here.
Let him/NYT know the following:
- He is incorrect about the connection between mental health issues and gun violence.
- The Murphy bill will undermine the human rights of people with psychiatric disabilities.
- The Murphy bill fails to addres gaps in community-based services that are the root of the problems in the mental health system.
- Direct him to Rep. Paul Tonko’s recent blog post. Rep. Tonko gets it: “Study after study has shown that there is no connection between those w/#mentalillness & violence” – @RepPaulTonko
- Direct him to this letter by the Bazelon Center on the false link between mass shootings and mental health.
- For more information and talking points, see the excellent sample email (below) by Susan Rogers or Sera Davidow’s statement on gun violence and psychiatric diagnosis.
Thank you for taking action today!
Dear Mr. Kristof,
First, let me say that you are my favorite New York Times columnist and I read your column religiously. In the past, I have quoted some of the facts you have included in your columns about gun control, such as statistics from your excellent column “The Killer Who Supports Gun Control.”
Rep. Murphy is promoting his bill – which, if passed, would be harmful to individuals with mental health conditions, such as myself, by hamstringing the federal protection and advocacy system, violating people’s privacy rights, and promoting force rather than choice in treatment – by linking mental health conditions and violence.
Rep. Murphy is wrong. Many studies, such as one by researchers at Vanderbilt University, have found that “mental illness is the wrong scapegoat after mass shootings.” I also urge you to read Rep. Paul Tonko’s excellent piece on this subject, “Why Equating Mental Illness with Violence Harms Us All.”
Here is a quote from a Vox.com report: “When economist Richard Florida took a look at gun deaths and other social indicators, he found that higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness didn’t correlate with more gun deaths. But he did find one telling correlation: States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths.”
Mr. Kristof, again, I admire your work enormously, and I appreciate your educating me about important charitable organizations such as the Fistula Foundation, which I have been donating to ever since reading about their work in more than one of your columns.
I also appreciate your focus on gun control. I hope that, in another column, you will write to indicate that you were wrong to promote Rep. Tim Murphy’s bill, H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.
Thank you again for all you do,
National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse