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Mental health, gun violence, and why America connects them

Genera view during March for Our Lives 2022 on in Washington, DC.
Genera view during March for Our Lives 2022 on in Washington, DC.

Congress is looking to pass a bipartisan gun safety proposal. And if it succeeds, the bill could come with aheftyinvestment in mental health treatment. 

Lawmakers have yet to solidify their plans, but they’ve said a Senate bill would include bolstering school-based mental health services, crisis intervention, substance use disorder services, and suicide prevention.

Mental health providers say they’ll take all the federal resources they can get, but they aren’t convinced it will do much to prevent mass shootings.

Dr. Jeff Temple, a psychologist andfounding director of the Center for Violence Prevention atthe University of Texas MedicalBranch, wrote an op-ed originally published in the Austin American-Statesman:

Making psychiatric disease the bogeyman is politically expedient – it allows policymakers to shy away from the true culprit. It also fits into how the public often views mental illness – as something to fear. Afterall, what else would cause someone to do something so heinous? The problem with this thinking is that it’s wrong.

There’s little evidence that people with mental health issues are more likely to assault or kill someone with a gun. In fact, people with mental illnesses are more likely to be the victims of this violence.

One area where mental health and guns do collide is suicide, which accounts for thousands more firearm deaths every year than homicides, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What’s the nature of the connection between mental health and gun violence? And if it’s tenuous, why is it brought up in the wake of tragedy?

Copyright 2022 WAMU 88.5

Haili Blassingame, June Leffler