Association Between Mass Shootings, Mental Illness Not Supported By Research

By Anthony Kassir


From APA Headlines, August 6, 2019:

The Washington Post (8/5, Wan, Bever) reports that according to research, mental illness is not to blame for America’s mass shootings. In a 2018 report of active shooters, the FBI “found that 25 percent of active shooters had been diagnosed with a mental illness. And of those diagnosed, only three shooters had been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder.” Similarly, “in a 2015 study that examined 235 people who committed or tried to commit mass killings, only 22 percent could be considered” as having a mental illness. In addition, “a 2004 report conducted by the Secret Service and the Education Department found that only 12 percent of perpetrators in more than three dozen school shootings showed an interest in violent video games.”

        The AP (8/5, Johnson) reports experts say that “Trump’s focus on ‘mentally ill monsters’ oversimplifies the role of mental illness in public mass shootings and downplays the ease with which Americans can get firearms, experts said.” Mental health experts “repeated what they have said after previous mass shootings: Most people with mental illness are not violent, they are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators, and access to firearms is a big part of the problem.” The AP adds that “a country’s rate of gun ownership is a far better predictor of public mass shootings than indicators of mental illness, said Adam Lankford, a University of Alabama criminologist who published a 2016 analysis of data from 171 countries.” Meanwhile, “last month, the U.S. Secret Service released a report on mass public attacks in 2018, finding that ‘no single profile’ can be used ‘to predict who will engage in targeted violence’ and ‘mental illness, alone, is not a risk factor.’”

        TIME (8/5) reports that physicians “across specialties are growing increasingly frustrated by” the linkage of mass shootings and mental illness by public figures and are “arguing for a stronger focus on gun control over mental health.” As a results of studies failing to find a link between mental illness and mass shootings, “an increasingly large and vocal cadre of doctors has been arguing for years that gun violence is more an issue of access and regulation than it is mental health.”

        The Hill (8/5, Weixel) reports that “the country’s largest organization of psychiatrists on Monday pushed back against comments from politicians linking the most recent spate of mass shootings to mental illness.” In a statement, “the American Psychiatric Association (APA) said gun violence is a public health crisis, and noted that ‘the overwhelming majority of people with mental illness are not violent and far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators of violence.’” The APA said, “Rhetoric that argues otherwise will further stigmatize and interfere with people accessing needed treatment. Individuals can also be emboldened to act violently by the public discourse and divisive rhetoric.”



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