We have all seen the horrible news regarding mass shootings this past weekend in Texas and Ohio. For many of us, the struggle to process these events will lead to more questions than answers. Many of our public figures will debate the cause for such violence, and it is up to each of us individually to find the facts and make our own conclusions.
It is logical to assume that someone who commits mass murder is mentally unwell. However, the assumption that all mass shootings are directly caused by mental illness perpetuates the stigma against all forms of mental illness, therefore making it more difficult for people to seek help when they need it. In fact, less than 5% of gun-related killings from 2001 to 2010 were committed by someone with a diagnosed mental illness (www.nih.gov). Also, according to a Secret Service report on Mass Attacks in Public Spaces, only 19% of attacks researched in 2018 were motivated by mental health symptoms or psychosis, whereas 52% were motivated by some sort of grievance (www.secretservice.gov).
For those individuals struggling with PTSD, severe anxiety, or agoraphobia, reports of these kinds of shootings may be triggering and lead to increased fear or isolation. We need to practice compassion and empathy towards those who struggle rather than assuming all persons with mental illness can and will be violent. The one benefit to this discussion could be a greater focus on improving mental health care in this country. If the assumption is that mass shooters are all mentally ill, wouldn’t increased treatment and care be appropriate?
How do we as a country work through our grief, horror, and confusion over such events? How can we come together to address not only gun violence, but other contentious issues that have caused division and hate? The answers may not be readily clear, but we can start by not directing our negative feelings indiscriminately at those who are simply struggling to manage their mental health. At Main St. Psychiatry we strive to provide the most compassionate and complete mental health care possible, and to advocate for the needs of our patients and community. If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health issues, please call us today to learn how we can help.
Original material found at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4318286/