A NEW VIEW: Oklahoma State incident making mental health stigma much worse

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Homecoming parade crash at Oklahoma State University. Four people were killed, and a total of 51 individuals were injured.

Adacia Chambers was arrested in connection with the crash. Police say she was driving under the influence, but her family tells a much different story.

Chambers’ boyfriend says she was not a person who drinks or does recreational drugs. Chambers’ lawyer did an interview in which he told NBC’s Today Show Chambers suffers from mental illness.

Chambers’ family and lawyer are trying to blame this incident on her mental state. There’s been a rise in cases where shootings and things of that nature are blamed on mental illness. When did this become okay?

Situations like these promote a stigma that individuals with mental health issues are violent. This poses a serious issue. By no means is every single mentally ill person prone to violence.

I’m not saying that what Chambers did is not a result of a condition. It very well could be, but making that information public through the news media seems to discredit it.

It would be different if a reporter had stumbled upon this information through another source, but the fact that it’s coming from Chambers’ lawyer makes it feel suspicious.

The family’s interviews are also an issue for me. The family’s willingness to bring Chambers’ past into the light so hastily without her consent seems cruel.

Whether or not this situation was somehow driven by her mental illness should be irrelevant at this point. The fact is four people were killed. Four families are mourning. Nothing can be done to fix that.

The past cannot be changed. The only thing we can do is move forward. The best way to do that is to try to figure out why things like this happen.

Chambers’ lawyer and family going to the media about this situation now taints the trial for her. Most members of her jury will have already heard about her mental illness being a suspected cause of the accident, so they will react to that instead of looking at the facts of the case.

Situations like this are delicate and should be handled with the proper care. Mental illness does not automatically explain violent acts.

Encouraging this type of stereotype is the worst thing society could do.

Nancy Peyton can be contacted at [email protected]