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Top 4 Misperceptions of Mass Shootings and Mental Illness

Published by Courtney Hall

Mental illness misperceptions have run wild in the wake of the latest mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Here are the Top 4 misperceptions of mass shootings and mental illness.

Common Misperceptions

  1. Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent the
    most significant relationship between gun violence and mental illness.
  2. People with serious mental illness should be considered dangerous.
  3. Gun laws focusing on people with mental illness or with a psychiatric
    diagnosis can effectively prevent mass shootings.
  4. Gun laws focusing on people with mental illness or a psychiatric diagnosis
    are reasonable, even if they add to the stigma already associated
    with mental illness.

Evidence-Based Facts

  1. Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less
    than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides. In contrast, deaths by
    suicide using firearms account for the majority of yearly gun-related
  2. The overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent
    crimes is only about 3%. (1) When these crimes are examined in detail,
    an even smaller percentage of them are found to involve firearms.
  3. Laws intended to reduce gun violence that focus on a population representing
    less than 3% of all gun violence will be extremely low yield,
    ineffective, and wasteful of scarce resources. Perpetrators of mass
    shootings are unlikely to have a history of involuntary psychiatric hospitalization.
    Thus, databases intended to restrict access to guns and
    established by guns laws that broadly target people with mental illness
    will not capture this group of individuals.
  4. Gun restriction laws focusing on people with mental illness perpetuate
    the myth that mental illness leads to violence, as well as the misperception
    that gun violence and mental illness are strongly linked.
  5. Stigma represents a major barrier to access and treatment of mental
    illness, which in turn increases the public health burden.

The above information is an excerpt from an article written by James L Knoll IV, M.D. & George D. Annas, M.D., M.P.H. and published on the American Psychiatric Association Publishing. To read the full article, click here.

(1) Copyright © 2016 American Psychiatric Association Publishing. All Rights Reserved.
To purchase the complete resource, please visit or your local bookseller.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with mental illness, please give us a call or email us at admin(at)

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