I live with bipolar disorder. I've struggled, along with my doctors, to manage its symptoms, shifting moods and the related unpreditability.

I'm Canadian. Still, I do think I have some valid comments that have to do with the community of those impacted by mental illness and violence. A community I feel extends not only from Canada to the United States, but indeed around the world.

Watching the ongoing and perverted gun debate in America, I'm frustrated. I'm infuriated.

I am vastly disturbed by the continuing arguments that those with a mental illness are somehow largely responsible for gun violence. It's insulting to demonize people with mental illness and it's factually wrong. Greviously, the prevailing thinking in America is that keeping guns out of the hands of individuals who have any sort of history of mental illness (it possible to recover fully) is the one of the surestn ways to resolve this.

This is what I know. I have never been violent. I don't know anyone of the many people i have come to be acquainted with of having a history of violence. In fact, many studies have shown that there is no compelling scientific evidence to suggest that mental illness causes violence. The stereotype not only exists but is becoming more entrenched in the public mind.

I wonder how much of this thinking has filtered across the border into the thinking of Canadians. I have to believe that this stereotype has to be gaining traction in our country.

Our main concern should be the number of suicides committed with guns. Approximately 17,000 people in America use guns to take their own lives each year. Even in Canada, the number is approximately 1,000 annually.

It is hard not to believe that the great majority of these victims were suffering from a mental illness at the time they made the final choice.

How many would have been successful without access to firearms? I have to believe that the number would be drastically reduced. A gun is almost a guarantee of a life ended in a tragic moment of hopelessness and despair. An overdose of pills, slashed wrists and other methods, while serious and often successful, undisputedly have a greater opportunity for intervention and saving a life.

I have attempted suicide twice and surely if I had a gun at my disposal I would not be writing this.

Where's the outcry about these sad facts? Where is anyone bringing this issue to the public agenda? Does anyone really care?

It's time to focus on treating people with mental illness. It's not right to so egregiously cast a large shadow of blame and continue marginalizing the roughly 10% of citizens in both Canada and America who are living with mental illness.

It's shameful. It's wrong.


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