Mass Shootings and Mental Health

This is a repost and slight expansion of a Twitter thread from a few days ago.

::Taps microphone::

For the record, I have a mental illness, and have never committed a mass shooting.

Research shows that “the overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3%. When these crimes are examined in detail, an even smaller percentage of them are found to involve firearms.

If you’re looking for a more telling correlation, consider this finding from an FBI study of 160 active shooter events between 2000 and 2013: “Only 6 (3.8%) of the 160 cases involved a female perpetrator.” (p. 85)

I mean, please, PLEASE, do improve mental health care in this country! But don’t expect it to have any impact on mass shootings.

One argument points to a Mother Jones article claiming mental illness is frequently a factor in these shootings. So I downloaded their data set.

Factors they listed in the mental illness column include:

  • History of domestic conflict
  • Violent criminal history
  • Family said he was mentally ill (no illness/diagnosis specified)
  • Cousin said he was depressed and “going through a lot of things”
  • Experimented with pot and hallucinogens

They also listed some actual mental illness diagnoses. But counting those diagnoses right alongside things like “stalked and harassed a colleague” completely undermines their research and conclusions.

One individual was upset I argued against blaming mass shootings on the mentally ill, then turned around and pointed out that almost all mass shooters are male. I mean, I guess I’m sorry he felt upset or attacked or whatever, but the facts are pretty straightforward:

  • Most mass shooters are not mentally ill.
  • Mass shooters are almost always male.

Yeah, we know most men aren’t mass murderers. But since mass shootings are committed almost exclusively by men, don’t you think maybe it’s worth asking why? (Don’t #NotAllMen me, bro!)

We could also look into the significant correlation between mass shootings and domestic violence.

I’m not the first to point any of this out. There’s plenty of research out there, and people have been challenging the “mass shootings are a mental health problem” refrain for years.

At this point, if you’re still beating the “mental illness” drum as a response to mass shootings in the USA, I have to assume it’s because you’re uninterested in addressing the real problems.

TL;DR – I’m mentally ill. Please stop blaming this epidemic on us. Thanks.