August 7, 2019 | WNYC The Takeaway

The Danger of Linking Mental Illness to Mass Shootings

President Trump, and others including leaders in the GOP, have blamed mental illness for mass shootings. In a Monday speech, Trump called mass shooters “mentally ill monsters” and said that these people must “not only get treatment, but when necessary, involuntary confinement” as well as that “mental illness and hatred pull the trigger. Not the gun.”

But psychologists have warned that this kind of rhetoric stigmatizes mental illness and misrepresents its role in mass shootings. The American Psychiatric Association said Monday that gun violence is a public health crisis and that “the overwhelming majority of people with mental illness are not violent and far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators of violence.”

Dominic A. Sisti, director of the Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics in Behavioral Health Care at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jonathan Metzl, director of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Medicine, Health and Society, joined The Takeaway to explain how mental illness, including the term itself, is used for political gain in the context of mass shootings. 

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