VIC COLUMN: Gun Violence, Not A Mental Illness Problem
“No basis for the generalized fear of people with a mental illness”
Study: Less than one-third of mass violence
is caused by people with serious mental illness
The next time you hear someone say, “Mental illness is causing all these mass-casualty shootings,” you can say - with authority - “That is not true.”
Studying a link between mental illness and mass violence, The National Council for Behavioral Health’s Medical Director Institute authored a report.
In light of the recent tragic shootings, “Mass Violence in America: Causes, Impacts and Solutions” is both timely and relevant. It will add to the national conversation underway about the link between mental illness and mass violence in the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shootings.
According to the report, “people with serious mental illness are responsible for less than 4 percent of all violence and less than one-third of mass violence.” Statistics bear out that most people who commit mass violence do not have a serious mental illness.
What’s in the report:
--The report delves into the research on mental illness, substance use disorder (SUD) and mass violence and it does find a link, particularly when there is a person with untreated mental illness who has a co-occurring SUD.
--That said, it also reveals that the link is limited – other factors such as demographics and isolation from society play a critical role.
--“While there is a modest link between mental illness and violence, there is no basis for the generalized fear of people with a mental illness.”
--It continues to be tragically true that people with mental illness are more at risk of harming themselves than others, and this cannot be overlooked in debates about mental illness and violence.
The report’s recommendations:
--Creation of threat assessment teams with members from human resources, law enforcement, legal teams, security departments and behavioral health clinicians.
--Enactment of state extreme-risk protection orders (also known as red flag laws) allow for the temporary removal of guns from individuals who are known to pose a high risk of harming others or themselves in the near future.
--Involve mental health professionals in threat assessments conducted by law enforcement and implementation of red flag laws.
--The requirement of training on violence risk assessment for all clinicians.
--Training staff within schools, law enforcement and communities with high-risk groups in Mental Health First Aid, which teaches skills to respond to the signs of mental and substance abuse disorders.
--Reexamination of the effectiveness of zero-tolerance policies and security measures like bulletproof glass and metal detectors in schools.
I don’t know the solution to the mass-shootings problem in the United States. Certainly, I believe, our nation needs to reenact The Brady Bill. I do not believe, as some do, that “the media” should be required to not use the name of the shooter - that all these shooters want is their 15 minutes of fame. Punishment should be just and swift for these mass-shooters - and, in my mind, the only people who should possess the firepower that these cowards have demonstrated, are the people authorized by law to shoot them dead.
(Vic MacDonald is editor of The Clinton Chronicle. Since September, 2015, he has been a member of the board of the Beckman Mental Health Center. The views expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chronicle. MacDonald can be reached at 833-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org)