If you mapped out the discussion about the major causes of gun violence following every mass shooting in the United States, it would almost certainly lead you to the same destination: mental illness.
Politicians, public figures and the population at large have all perpetuated this misconception at times. Even the media plays into the narrative: Research published in 2016 found that more than a third of news stories linked mental illness with violence toward others, which does not reflect actual rates of interpersonal violence where mental illness is involved.
Sure, there are cases where mental illness might play a role in gun violence. But the reality is that an overwhelming majority do not — fewer than 5 percent of gun-related killings are committed by someone diagnosed with a mental illness, according to research.
Blanket statements that connect mental health conditions with shooting tragedies alienate the millions of people who live ― and live well ― with these issues, experts say.
The “disparaging and inaccurate remarks about mental illness serve only to perpetuate stigma and prohibit honest and open dialogue about an illness (or disorder) that affects one in five people in the nation,” the American Psychiatric Association wrote in a statement following the Feb. 14 mass shooting that left 17 people dead at a Parkland, Florida, high school.
Positive and informative messaging around this topic is a good start to dismantling the falsehood that mental illness is a major factor in the majority of gun violence cases. That’s why we rounded up a few educational and encouraging tweets on the subject.
Anyone can benefit from reading up, whether you’re living without a mental illness and looking to expand your knowledge or you have a mental health condition and just need some support right now.