By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Pain and outrage are reverberating across the country after two mass shootings occurred within hours of each other this weekend. The first happened in El Paso, Texas, followed by an attack in Dayton, Ohio.

On Monday, President Donald Trump condemned the attacks. The shootings have since sparked a discussion about mental illness.

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As Reg Chapman learned, while those conversations can be good, they can also be dangerous.

Mental health professionals say equating violence with mental illness has to stop.

“To blame it on mental illness really makes it more difficult for people with mental illness to live and work in our communities, and I think it increases negative public attitudes and I think it increases discrimination,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota.

Abderholden says one in five people live with mental illness and research shows only 4% of violent crimes are committed by people living with a serious mental illness.

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“Mental illness alone is not an indicator of violence,” Abderholden said.

Abderholden says research points to mass shooters as people who experience some type of traumatic event, have access to lethal weapons, have something happen in the weeks leading up to the incident and often give warning signs on social media or in conversations with friends.

“Mental illness occurs across the world – every single country. Women have mental illness, older people have mental illness, people from every different racial, ethnic group have mental illness – so why is it then that it’s only white males in the United States that are mass shooters,” Abderholden said.

Abderholden says we need to figure out why isn’t this happening with other white males living with mental illness in other countries.

“Hate is not a mental illness. If we want to talk about what happened here we have to get to the root of the problem and we know that both had hate towards people who were different from them and that’s not a mental illness, that’s just simply hate,” Abderholden said.

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Abderholden says parents should speak with their teenagers and older children about these mass shootings. She says the incidents can make many feel a little unsafe where they live, work or play and talking about it can help calm fears.

Reg Chapman