Mental Illness as Scapegoat for Gun Violence


Dr. Candace A. McCullough: There have been a lot of shootings recently – in schools, Las Vegas and other places. People blame mental illness as the cause of this, but that is wrong. It perpetuates the stigma against mental illness.

In reality, most people who are mentally ill are not dangerous. Only a very, very small percentage are. Blaming mentally ill people for gun violence needs to stop. If you can envision two circles, one representing people with mental illness and the other representing people who are violent, the little part where they overlap is the very small percentage of people who are mentally ill and dangerous. This is less than 4% of people who are violent and dangerous.

If you believe that mental illness causes gun violence, strangely, you should see equal numbers of men and women using gun violence, but men far outnumber women when it comes to gun violence. This does not make sense, because both men and women can have mental illness, but both do not engage in gun violence.

When people who are mentally ill get ahold of a gun, they are more likely to use it for suicide purposes. They do not tend to shoot other people. If they do shoot other people, it is more often family members, friends or coworkers with whom they may have a grievance. The do not usually use guns for mass shootings.

Also, if you believe than mental illness causes gun violence, look at the rest of the world. The US has far higher numbers of gun violence than other countries such as Japan have far lower numbers. Mental illness is a universal phenomenon so the statistics do not make sense.

Even if psychologists and counselors diagnose people with mental illness, they cannot predict who will become violent and shoot people. There is more chance of recognizing risk of gun violence by looking at factors such as history of violence, including domestic violence and hurting others. History of two or more DUI convictions in five years also increases risk. Additionally, two or more convictions of drug-related crimes in five years are associated with increased risk of gun violence. Gun violence is typically correlated with rage, impulsivity, reaction to job loss or divorce and alcohol use.

People who suffer from mental illness often have no voice to defend themselves. They are more likely to be victims of crime themselves, than to conduct crimes against others.

Blaming mental illness as the cause of gun violence diverts our attention from the real causes. These are the need for gun control laws and for dealing with social and economic problems in society. These are the issues that we need to look at.

We need to stop targeting mental illness and look at the real causes so we can make improvements. If you see people blaming mental illness for gun violence, it is important that you correct them so they can disseminate the right information about gun violence This will help show support for people with people illnesses.

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