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I am saddened that mental illness was brought into the reasoning for the carnage earlier this month, without any concrete diagnosis of either perpetrator.

As a member of the Carver County Mental Health Advisory Council, I work hard to find ways to increase awareness and reduce the stigma associated with getting help for those suffering from some form of mental illness.

Putting the responsibility for mass shootings solely at the feet of mental illness only compounds the difficulty for advocates and providers to make effective progress to combat this stigma. Because we, as a society, seek to lay blame on only one part of the equation without looking at the full problem.

Mental illness stigma, like racism, stems from fear of what is different or what we do not understand about another human being.

In one-on-one interactions we support each other, we tell our family, friends and neighbors to get the help they need. Yet in a group setting, some of these same supporters are the first to crack a joke or spread gossip about someone getting that help.

Treating other Americans and, well, anyone from any country for that matter, with dignity and respect, will lessen the effects of stigma and racism.

To be clear, there are many potential reasons mass shooters do what they do and the root cause of their horrible actions may never be known, so it is wrong that the focus is only on mental illness and this focus makes the mission of the CCMHAC and other advocates who seek to “make it OK, to not be OK” that much harder.

We turn to what is familiar when we are uncertain or afraid, and I cannot say anything to assure you that has not already been said, so I end with John 14:27; “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Derek A. Gunderson is chair of the Carver County Mental Health Advisory Council.

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.

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