Are people with serious mental illness more prone to violence than the general population? In the aftermath of almost weekly mass shootings and other acts of extreme violence, this question inevitably emerges.
In the wake of the recent nightclub shooting in Orlando, there are voices that are again loudly touting mental illness as a key target for preventing the repetition of such horrors.
Yet, as we wrote last year, researchers have already debunked the link between mental illness and gun violence. Instead, we found access to guns increases rates of suicide, but not of homicide. However, what most people don’t know is that, underlying all of this, there is policy prohibiting research from delving further into the issue and discovering where the evidence leads us.
Today’s culture has embraced an erroneous connection between mental illness and violence, partly due to exaggeration by the media, especially in light of the many mass killings in the past several years. The Sept. 1 post on Beacons Lens that appeared after the on-air shooting in Virginia addressed this very point, stating, “[t]he proliferation of today’s media makes it too easy to draw conclusions that aren’t necessarily based in the evidence, often blurring the line between fact and fiction, a view supported by research.” There is, however, an important caveat to this mix of stereotypes and prejudices: the problem of suicide. The 20th century French writer and philosopher, Albert Camus, asserted that suicide is the one truly serious philosophical problem….
Last week’s on-air shooting in Virginia of a reporter and cameraman re-poses a question that simply won’t let go. What is the connection between mental illness and violence, if any? Columbine, Newtown, Washington Navy Yard, and now Roanoke, Virginia, are all names that force the question to bubble to the surface. Unfortunately, it won’t be the last time we confront it. Fact vs. fiction The proliferation of today’s media makes it too easy to draw conclusions that aren’t necessarily based in the evidence, often blurring the line between fact and fiction, a view supported by research. For example, news stories on mental illness either focus on the condition’s negative aspects or medical treatments, yet they don’t cover the many positive…