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Stephanie Mencimer’s article “The Sick and the Dead” (7/11) is an inflammatory contradiction about mental illness and violence that only serves to alarm the general public and insult people with mental illness.

Mencimer’s call for commitment laws for people with serious mental illness as a way to address crime is a Band-Aid solution that ignores the imperative issues facing the mental-health system today. Our nation’s lack of community-based mental-health services, poor access to treatment, and discriminatory insurance coverage, on top of state mental-health budget cuts, are the real problems that need to be addressed.

In addition, Mencimer’s use of sensationalized criminal cases, her unqualified psychoanalysis of John Malvo, and her assertion that terrorists, religious fundamentalists, and even Attorney General John Ashcroft are afflicted with mental illness, undermines any credibility her work offers. According to a MacArthur Foundation study, which she references, people with mental illness are no more violent than the rest of the population. Yet she still uses stigmatizing language and sensational examples that lead one to believe otherwise.

Instead of proposing reactionary solutions that perpetuate the myths about mental illness and violence, Mencimer should have stuck to the facts and researched the real mental-health crises facing communities today.

National Mental Health Association

Alexandria, Va.