Stop Blaming Gun Violence on Mental Illness:
Able South Carolina is devastated over the recent shootings reported nationwide. In our own state, we have lost many to gun violence, including children as recently as the past week. Like many of you, we feel outdone.
In the case of gun violence, the disability community is often gripped and thrown into the spotlight as politicians, grieving people, and scared neighbors proclaim, “mental illness,” as the target to blame.
We at Able SC want you to understand that this statement is false.
Let’s start with facts:
Studies have shown that the popularized link between mass shootings and mental illness is overstated and untrue. This leads to public fear and damaging stigma on people with mental illnesses, most of whom are not violent (Source 1).
Research shows that the link between mental illness and violence is not useful for predicting violence. Research also tells us that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims than to commit violence (Source 2)
Leaning on psychiatric diagnosis to predict gun crime is more dangerous than making no attempt at policy change. This can endanger people seeking better psychiatric health, and stop people from trying, all while not preventing crimes (Source 3).
What can we do with these facts?
Saying that people with mental illnesses commit mass murder is not only false, it’s dangerous for those who experience mental illness. Popularizing a lie causes the stigmatization that could lead to someone being a victim or their death.
The deep truth behind mass shootings is people who commit these crimes do not suddenly break from reality. They are people who have made a deliberate choice to organize themselves, prepare, plan, and attack. They are aware of the impact of their plan. They intend to kill people. They know the consequence.
People who commit mass shootings are often deeply unhappy. There are studies that tell us what the warning signs are (Source 4). So what can we do with this information? We can step in and guide people back to a place where they are supported and happy. Together, we can create better social and living conditions through intervention, both professional, and personal.
Making “mental illness” the blame-all buzzword following a mass shooting does not stop mass shootings. We have decades of research and lived experience that proves this.
What can and will stop mass shootings is meaningful systems change to prevent this from happening, ever again. But most importantly, we can’t continue blaming an entire community [people with psychiatric disabilities] that is already stigmatized. Please help be the change.
Source 1: Michigan Psychological Association
Source 2: APA
Source 3: NCBI
Source 4: FBI