Mental Illness is NOT to Blame for Mass Shootings

Last week I reposted, Violence and Mental Illness in response to the current administrations tweet about the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Dtrump on school shooting

The recent school shooting in Florida is a tragedy, the people who were killed deserve to be remembered, they also deserve to have something meaningful come from their death.  As a student turned activist, Sofie Whitney, told NPR, “We can’t dwell on the sadness, of course we are all heart broken, but we can’t let the 17 people die for nothing, we have to make something good about their death.”  A group of students at the Florida high school are organizing a rally to take place in March.  The issue, which the current administration would have you believe is due to mental illness, is truly one of easy access to high powered guns.  In an open letter shared by Fox News after this shooting, a man admits that he would have been a school shooter too, had he had access to firearms while in high school.

Gun control is a messy topic, in the same NPR report mentioned above, Sofie Whitney asks, “why [is] your right to own an AR-15 more important than a kids right to feel safe?  It’s not, it’s common sense.”  Many American’s agree with the sentiment Sofie shares, but due to political games very little has been done to protect kids and to make them, as well as adults, feel safe from firearms.

The current administration has finally expressed the importance of accessible treatment for mental illness, it is unfortunate that it took an unrelated tragedy to happen.  In emphasizing the shooters depression by calling him “mentally disturbed” and then calling for mental healthcare access in the wake of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High, the stigma of mental illness has grown.  The last thing we need is additional stigma when we are already living in a society where “roughly half of Americans either believe that failing to identify people with mental health problems is the primary cause of gun violence or that addressing mental health issues would be a major deterrent.” (NY Times)

The Trump administration is not alone in blaming violent acts on mental illness.  House Speaker Paul Ryan said of the shooting, “Mental health is a big problem underlying these tragedies.”  This is not true.  Not only have countless experts weighted in on the issue of violence and mental illness, but there are also conclusive, real world facts to back it up, the NY Times reports a study that shows “in an analysis of 235 mass killings, many of which were carried out with firearms, 22 percent of the perpetrators could be considered mentally ill.”  For those who don’t want to do the math, that means that 78 percent of mass killings have been committed by people without mental illness.

I think the misperception and subsequent blaming of mental illness is created by the average person’s inability to understand how someone without a mental illness could do such horrendous acts.  It is a hard thing to wrap your mind around, how could someone who is not delusional want to kill so many people?

There are monsters in this world.  The majority of these monsters are born out of hatred rather than mental illness.  Let’s stop blaming mental illness, let’s look at this issue for what it is – easy access to high powered firearms.


You can read a transcript of Trumps statement here (Vox).

For additional statistics on mental illness and mass killings visit NY Times.

Read about how experts disagree that mental illness and mass shootings are strongly related here. (PBS)

You can hear or read the full report with student interviews on NPR’s story of the day.

Fox reports on open letter from would-be shooter here.

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