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April 2018

A Reassessment of Blaming Mass Shootings on Mental Illness

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
JAMA Psychiatry. 2018;75(4):311-312. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.0010

Several recent mass shootings in the United States have prompted calls to address untreated serious mental illness. This rhetoric—delivered by policy makers, journalists, and the public—focuses the blame for mass shootings on individuals with serious mental illness (specifically, schizophrenia and psychotic spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder), with less attention paid to other contributory factors, such as access to firearms.1 Furthermore, attributing mass shootings to untreated serious mental illness stigmatizes an already vulnerable and marginalized population, fails to identify individuals at the highest risk for committing violence with firearms, and distracts public attention from policy changes that are most likely to reduce the risk of gun violence.