When a significant gun incident occurs in New York, it is common for the discussion to shift toward mental illness. However, it is important to note that the majority of gun violence is not committed by individuals with mental illness, as supported by statistical data. Unfortunately, stigmatizing remarks during these conversations can create the misconception that all people with mental illness are prone to violence. Such discussions can be disheartening for community members living with mental health conditions.
Gun violence and mental health
Studies indicate that the increase in weapons crimes, including gun violence, is often attributed to factors such as substance abuse, a history of violence or background of physical or sexual abuse on the part of the perpetrator. It is important to note that mental illness alone does not serve as a predictor of violence.
Although the statistical connection between mental illness and gun violence is relatively low, some argue that it is reasonable to have measures in place that enable law enforcement to respond to credible concerns from families and communities regarding individuals with mental illness possessing firearms. Engaging in a productive and honest conversation about all the factors involved, including mental health, is crucial to identifying effective strategies that can help prevent gun tragedies and protect communities, particularly children, from the impact of gun violence.
Mental health and crime
The number of crimes committed by individuals with mental health conditions constitutes only a tiny fraction of violent crimes. The likelihood of someone committing a violent crime increases when they have a substance use disorder. Individuals with mental illness generally exhibit violent behavior for similar reasons as those without a mental health diagnosis, such as feelings of hopelessness, frustration, interpersonal relationship difficulties, financial struggles or challenges at school or work.
It is important to take reasonable measures to prevent individuals who pose a risk to themselves and the community from accessing tools that could harm others. Simultaneously, efforts should be made to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and create an environment where individuals with mental health conditions can seek and receive assistance.