a misconception that revolts psychiatrists

In recent months, many Republican politicians in the United States (USA) have been spreading the idea that the mass shootings that are happening more and more often in this country are related to mental health, a claim that psychiatrists consider false and that only reinforces the stigma towards those who have some kind of disease.

“This prevents us from talking about the serious problem that exists in the United States with violence, distracts attention, and also adds stigma to people with mental health problems,” said Hector Colon-Rivera, a psychiatrist from the American Psychiatric Association, in an interview with EFE.

Thus, instead of talking about “healing and helping these people”, this type of association achieves “an increase in their fear of talking and telling what is happening to them.”

Distraction not to talk about violence

As with the Uvalda school massacre that killed 19 children and two teachers in 2022, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott was quick to reassure last May following the mall shooting that these acts of violence were directly related to mental health issues.

“We are working to manage anger and violence by addressing its root cause, which is addressing underlying mental health issues,” the governor said in an interview when asked what can be done to end the mass shootings.

An opinion publicly shared by figures such as Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell or Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who, like Abbott, are in favor of Americans buying guns and using them.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit project that monitors gun violence in the United States, there have been more than 370 mass shootings this year (those that ended in four victims killed or injured, not counting the attacker), as happened this week in Philadelphia.

“Gun violence is a huge public health issue and mental health is another giant public health issue. The connection between them is very weak,” explains Colon-Rivera.

There is an urgent need to change perceptions of violence and mental health

Combating this false association is one of the goals of the Educational Foundation to End Gun Violence, which states in a report posted on its website that “it is a common misconception that people living with mental illness are responsible for gun violence.”

“In fact, the majority of people with mental illness do not use violence against others (…) and become victims rather than perpetrators of violence,” the organization says in a report in which it recalls that one in five Americans have been diagnosed with a mental problem.

However, although the rate of mental illness in the United States is the same as in other countries, the level of violence with firearms is much higher here, the organization reminds.

This false association, says the National Alliance of Mental Illness, is a “kick in the gut” for people with mental health problems.

“The vast majority of people with mental illness are non-violent, will never become violent, and mental illness is not the cause of most gun violence.”

“He who shoots is not mentally ill”: FBI

According to a report released by the FBI in 2018, which examined the pre-attack behavior of the most murderous criminals who staged mass shootings between 2000 and 2013, only 25 percent of them were diagnosed with mental health problems.

In the FBI report, there is a “common but misguided tendency to assume that anyone who commits the act of shooting must be de facto mentally ill.”

Texas Gun Sense also advocates for an end to this false association, says CEO Nicole Golden. “Mental health is too often used as a scapegoat or as a very simple answer to a problem when it isn’t.”

Texas is one of the laxest states on gun control, and lobbying power is huge. “They are very active, they are constantly in the capital, talking to legislators and have a lot of influence to block our efforts to pass common sense laws,” he explains.

Knowing the state’s deep roots in guns, they’re not asking Texas Gun Sense to ban them, but “responsible use and common sense,” and for that reason they’re pushing laws like banning minors under the age of 21 from buying assault weapons.

They also call for universal background checks on gun sales and so-called “red flag laws” that “temporarily separate a person from their firearm,” says Golden.

In Texas, he denounces, the disparity is doubly so because its governor claims mental health issues are driving the increase in violence.

Man holding his head with his hands and distorted background
Te interesa:
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