Though the graph prepared by the Pew Research Center indicates that the incidence of gun violence has come down in the United States since the 1990s, the frequent premeditated mass shootings at public places have forced the government, law enforcement agencies and researchers to look for possible signs of mental illness in people resorting to homicides with firearms.
An analysis by the Pew Research Center of death certificate data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) till 2015 revealed that incidents of mass shootings and crimes related to overall gun violence have stabilized over the past few years.
The increased spotlight on norms concerning possession of firearms and contradictory views on the need to keep firearms out of the reach of people with serious mental illness forced the government to come up with a set of regulations, announced by President Barack Obama in January 2016, to curb gun violence.
Though gun violence is not being looked upon as a serious consequence of mental illness, the spate of incidents involving loss of lives to gunfire has led to medical practitioners looking at mental illness as an area of concern. The American Psychological Association (APA), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and other organizations advocating for rights of people suffering from mental disorders have argued that strategies and theories restricting Americans’ easy access to guns based solely on mental illness diagnoses are futile.
Examining the linkage
A recent study, titled “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms,” conducted by Dr. Jonathan Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish of Vanderbilt University, concluded that the connections between gun violence and mental illnesses are less causal and more complex than current U.S. public opinion and legislative action allow.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health in February 2015, analyzed data linking gun violence and mental illness over the past 40 years. Metzl and MacLeish wrote in their study, “Fewer than 5 percent of the 120,000 gun-related killings in the United States between 2001 and 2010 were perpetrated by people diagnosed with mental illness.”
Stressing on the findings of the research, lead author Metzl said, “Gun discourse after mass shootings often perpetuates the fear that some crazy person is going to come shoot me. But if you look at the research, it’s not the ‘crazy’ person you have to fear.”
Another study, titled “Mental illness and reduction of gun violence and suicide: bringing epidemiologic research to policy,” conducted by the Duke University School of Medicine, concluded that the need for policymaking at the interface of gun violence prevention and mental illness to be based on epidemiologic data concerning risk to improve the effectiveness, feasibility and fairness of policy initiatives. The findings were published in the Annals of Epidemiology in May 2015.
Road to recovery
In an open letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Alliance on Mental Illness Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick wrote, “Recent tragedies have focused attention on the fact that most people with serious mental illness do not have access to mental health treatment.”
Making the necessary treatment accessible to people suffering from mental disorders is as important as timely diagnosis to prevent the onset of major disorders and recurrence of the illness. If you or your loved is suffering from anxiety that has disabled your functional mind, seek help of the Florida Helpline for Anxiety. You may call our 24/7 helpline at 855-920-9834 or chat online for further information.