Gun Violence and Mental Illness?

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Nov 12, 2018
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What You Need to Know:

In 2018 there have been more than 300 mass shootings in the U.S., which is nearly one mass shooting for every day of the year. Many of these shootings have occurred at the hands of a person with known mental illness who had access to powerful firearms, such as semiautomatic weapons. Our country is in mourning for the senseless loss of lives as a national debate over the potential cause for this type of violence escalates. Some groups blame mental illness, while others demand stricter gun control laws.

Mental Illness and Violence:

Mental health experts report that mass shootings by seriously mentally ill persons represent only 1% of all gun homicides annually. Most people with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. People with mental illness who commit violent acts often do so because they are not receiving the necessary mental health treatment their illness requires. Fewer than 30% of adults and 50% of children with a diagnosed mental illness receive mental health care.

Experts have identified risk factors in the small number of people with mental illness who become violent which include untreated psychosis, a prior history of violence, alcohol abuse or illegal drug use, and being a young male. Actions which can negate violence in those with mental illness include early identification and intervention, adequate psychiatric treatment and support, and family education and support. 


Read more about gun violence, mental illness, and gun violence prevention:

CURRENT Diagnosis and Treatment Psychiatry, 3e: Chapter 56. Emergency Psychiatry > Homicidal Ideation and Violence

CURRENT Diagnosis and Treatment Pediatrics, 24e: Chapter 9. Ambulatory and Office Pediatrics > Anticipatory Guidance > Firearm Injuries and Violence Prevention

CURRENT Medical Diagnosis and Treatment 2019: Chapter 1. Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): Violence and Gun Reporting Laws


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Melanie Allison

Executive Editorial Specialist, McGraw-Hill Education

Melanie Allison is the Executive Editorial Specialist with McGraw-Hill Education. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree and Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing Education from The Johns Hopkins University. She earned her Master’s of Science in Nursing degree (MSN), specializing as an acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP), from Vanderbilt University. Melanie has more than 20 years of experience as a registered nurse and nurse practitioner in adult cardiology. She is an adjunct faculty member at a top school of nursing, where she has taught for more than 13 years.

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