Friday Feature 12.01.2017
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The Center for START Services
There is a common misconception in our country that most serious acts of gun violence are attributable to mental illness. Despite public perception, people with mental health conditions are not more likely to commit violent crimes. In fact, research shows that they are more likely to be the victims of violence. Nevertheless, political leaders and the media continue to cite a false link between mental illness and gun violence, fostering a culture of fear and perpetuating stigma. START values humanity, community, and learning & teaching. It is our responsibility to promote a dialogue within our communities to combat this stigma which greatly affects the individuals and families we support. 

Sharing a few articles and studies to read and share:
There is a widespread, profoundly troubling misconception that people with mental health conditions are inherently violent and this perception may be getting more rather than less prevalent. -Mental Health America

Media Coverage of the Mentally Ill Exaggerates Their Role in Gun Violence
by Kate Masters | The Trace

Linking mental illness to serious acts of violence has been found to increase the stigma of mental illness, despite the fact that most individuals with mental disorders are at low risk of attacking others. 

“When there’s this intense focus on people with mental illness as dangerous, it just increases negative stereotyping, which makes it difficult for people to ask for help,” Dr. Liza Gold, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and editor of the forthcoming Gun Violence and Mental Illness, told The Trace in November.

Read the full article
The Trace is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism startup dedicated to shining a light on America’s gun violence crisis.

Media sensationalization of violence, and especially graphic coverage of isolated instances of mass gun violence that involve persons with mental health conditions, tend to rekindle deep-seated fears and stereotypes. In such an inflammatory environment, the contagion of fear can infect policymakers and lead to ill-considered public policy.
Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms
Jonathan M. Metzl, MD, PhD, and Kenneth T. MacLeish, PhD, Vanderbilt University

In the article, “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings and the Politics of American Firearms,” Metzl and MacLeish analyze data and literature linking guns and mental illness over the past 40 years. They found that despite societal pre-conceived notions, most mentally ill people are not violent.

“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,” they write. “Our research finds that across the board, the mentally ill are 60 to 120 percent more likely than the average person to be the victims of violent crime rather than the perpetrators.”

Read an overview of the research on Vanderbilts website
The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3% to 5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. (US Department of Health & Human Services)
I’m a Psychiatrist. Making Gun Violence About Mental Health Is a Crazy Idea.
By JONATHAN M. METZL | November 09, 2017 | Politico

"More often than not, a number of extra-clinical, societal factors are far more predictive of gun violence than is mental illness alone. Substance use, male gender, past histories of violence including domestic abuse, social networks and the availability of firearms all correlate with nonsuicide gun violence more strongly than does psychiatric diagnosis; and of course, these factors can affect all populations, not just psychiatric ones. Gun violence is often a problem of us rather than a problem of them, and should be addressed as such."

Read the full article
Thanks for reading and happy Friday,

The Center for START Services

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Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire