Mass shootings that occurred in recent months had shown studies of mental illness of those who commit high profile crimes.
While the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, the perpetrators of mass shootings are far more likely to suffer from serious psychiatric disorders than the general population. This is especially true of people who commit indiscriminate mass shootings in which an attacker wantonly kills people in a public setting like a school, park, or church.
A study published in the journal Criminology & Public Policy found that 35% of people who committed indiscriminate mass shootings from 1976 to 2018 had paranoid schizophrenia, and 60% of the shooters “had been either diagnosed with a mental disorder or demonstrated signs of serious mental illness prior to the attack.” Some examples include the perpetrators of the slaughters at:
- Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
- Sandy Hook Elementary School.
- Virginia Tech.
- Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
- The Orlando Pulse Nightclub.
- An Aurora, Colorado movie theater.
- A Boulder, Colorado grocery store.
- Fort Lauderdale International Airport.
- The Tucson, Arizona “Congress on Your Corner” event with Gabby Giffords.
In comparison, less than 1% of the U.S. general population have schizophrenia or a related disorder, and 4.6% of noninstitutionalized U.S. adults have a serious mental illness.
“Social isolation, extremist ideology, gun access, societal disparities, and a history of trauma are a few examples of the psychological, cultural, and social elements that have an impact on mass shootings,” said Jason Shiers, Certified Advanced Transformative Coach Transactional Analysis Psychotherapist from United Recovery California.
The Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology published a study of people who committed a mass shooting from 1982 to 2019 and survived. The study focused on the survivors, as opposed to those who died, because the ensuing legal proceedings revealed “the most reliable psychiatric information.” Among the 35 mass shooters who survived, 51% had schizophrenia, and 80% had a psychiatric diagnosis.
Although 18.8% of U.S. adults received mental health services in 2021, people who desperately need such help often refuse care. For instance, the:
- Parkland killer “received extensive mental and behavioral health services until he turned 18 and decided himself to stop treatment.”
- Sandy Hook killer “refused to take suggested medication and did not engage in suggested behavior therapies.”
- Virginia Tech killer “was the biggest impediment to stabilizing his mental health.”
The correlation does not prove causation, but there is a very strong correlation between the rise of indiscriminate mass shootings and the mass deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients that occurred in the U.S. from 1955 to around 2010.
During that period, the portion of the U.S. population in public psychiatric hospitals declined by 96%. Highlighting the implications of this, a 1997 academic book about “America’s mental illness crisis” explains:
- “The magnitude of deinstitutionalization of the severely mentally ill qualifies it as one of the largest social experiments in American history.”
- About “763,391 severely mentally ill people (over three-quarters of a million) are living in the community today who would have been hospitalized 40 years ago.”
Over the periods before, during, and after the U.S. experiment in mass deinstitutionalization, the rates of indiscriminate mass shootings sextupled.
“The reality is, it wasn’t the deinstitutionalization, it was the lack of appropriate community supports. Individuals with serious mental illness are more likely to find themselves stigmatized and isolated,” said Dr. John Delatorre, a psychologist who’s a consultant at Project Absentis. “Without adequate resources for treatment, housing, employment, individuals with serious mental illness are going to continue to find themselves up against a society that would rather discard them and a justice system that would rather imprison them.”
With no regard for those facts and without presenting any evidence to support his claims, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D–CT) has declared, “Spare me the bullshit about mental illness. We don’t have any more mental illness than any other country in the world. You cannot explain this through a prism of mental illness, because we don’t—we’re not an outlier on mental illness. We’re an outlier when it comes to access to firearms and the ability of criminals and very sick people to get their hands on firearms. That’s what makes America different.”
Media outlets such as the Washington Post and New York Times allege that the only material difference between the U.S. and developed countries with vastly lower murder rates is that America has more guns. Thus, they conclude that guns must be the problem—commonly using Japan as a comparator because it has very low gun ownership and murder rates.
The cases including the Virginia Tech massacre—the deadliestschool shooting in U.S. history—show there is much room for improvement. As detailed in the official report of this tragedy that cost the lives of 32 students and faculty:
Similar circumstances surrounded the mental health of the mass murderer in Parkland and the perpetrators of other such massacres.
Produced in association with JustFacts
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