Experts Say Mass Shootings Are Not Caused by Mental Illness

After a harrowing weekend in Texas and Ohio where mass shootings left 31 people dead and dozens more injured, President Donald Trump called for culture change to a stop the glorification of violence in video games and online platforms, an end to bigotry and hatred and reforms to mental health laws. 

But his statements about mental health – referring to mass shooters as “mentally ill monsters” and suggesting “involuntary confinement” for some people with mental illness were off the mark, said Kevin Fischer, the executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

He noted that there is little correlation between mental illness and violent killings.

“Study after study has shown us that is simply not true. It’s actually more often the reverse,” he said, in that people living with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.

“Racism, hate, white supremacy are not diagnosable mental illnesses.”

Arthur Evans, the CEO of the American Psychological Association, the largest professional and scientific organization of psychologists in the United States, said it’s important for people to understand that there is a fairly weak link between mental illness and mass shootings.

In a 2016 book, “Gun Violence and Mental Illness,” published by American Psychological Association Publishing, researchers reported that mass shootings perpetrated by people with serious mental illness account for less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides.

“The biggest predictor of who is going to commit these crimes is violence, a history of past violence,” said Evans.

“That is the single-best predictor of who is going to act in a violent way and commit these kinds of violent acts. In addition, we know that there are other factors – stressors, alienation, disaffection, a history of domestic violence – all of those contribute to people’s likelihood to act out in violent ways. Mental illness is in there, but not as strong as some of these other factors.”

Access to guns also is problematic, Evans said.

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SOURCE: USA Today; Detroit Free Press, Kristen Jordan Shamus