New study shows no clear link between mental illness and mass shootings

A new study shows that the link between mental illness and mass shootings is not as black and white as politicians make it out to be
By Jason Spencer | Jun 08, 2016
After every major shooting the US, lawmakers tend to shift the blame onto mental illness. Not only is this not fair to those who have a positive diagnosis, but, according to a new study, mental illness has very little to do with the rampant shootings.

According to The Atlantic, a new study from Duke University, John Hopkins University, and the University of Southern Florida shows that there is very little correlation between gun crime and mental illness. It goes to show that those pushing the blame onto the mentally ill are not only unfair, but often a tactic used to pigeonhole the multiple problems associated with gun violence into one faction.

"This is one of the hardest distinctions to make," said Emma McGinty, a professor at John Hopkins and lead author of the study. "There could be emotional regulation issues related to anger, for example, which are a separate phenomenon. There could be underlying substance use issues. There could be a whole host of other risk factors for violence going on."

Although violent crime statistics were high among the mentally ill, The Washington Post noted that those with a diagnosis were actually less likely to carry a gun. Arrest records ranked those with illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression lower than those without, and those who had committed suicide were half as likely to use a gun.

Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences from Duke and one of the study's researchers, noted that pushing the blame onto one group of individuals was dangerous and doesn't solve the problem at hand.

"We have a long way to go in terms of developing laws that would have more precise criteria for determining who is at risk for gun violence and who should have their guns removed," said Swanson. "It also suggests that we need more than one kind of policy. People always ask me, 'What's the one thing we should do?' It's not a one thing problem."

McGinty agrees, and goes a step further by saying that those who commit something as heinous and heartless as a mass shooting have problems that can extend farther beyond a manageable diagnosis.

"Anyone who kills someone else in a mass shooting scenario or otherwise is not what we would consider mentally healthy," said McGinty. "But that does not mean they have a clinical diagnosis and therefore a treatable mental illness."

The study was published in the recent edition of Health Affairs.

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