In the United States, severe mental illness is frequently cited as a primary cause of mass shootings and high rates of gun violence. Miranda Lynne Baumann and Brent Teasdale (2018) investigated this relationship by comparing rates of gun violence among 255 recently discharged psychiatric patients and a matched group of 490 community residents. These authors found no significant difference between the two groups in likelihood of committing gun violence. However, access to firearms was associated with greater risk of suicidality among the former psychiatric patients. For those without access to a firearm, the rate was twice that of the community members, but for those with firearm access there was a seven times greater likelihood of suicidality. According to Baumann and Teasdale, these results indicate that stronger restrictions on firearm ownership for individuals with serious mental illness will not remedy the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. They suggested that greater focus is needed on reducing stigmatizing representations of people with mental illness and on strategies to reduce the disproportionately high rate of suicidality among these individuals.
Severe Mental Illness and Firearm Access
Baumann, M. L., & Teasdale, B. (2018). Severe mental illness and firearm access: Is violence really the danger? International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 56 (3), 44-49.
Mental illness Stereotypes StigmaMedia Supplement
This graph depicts the relationship between gun ownership and mass shootings in multiple countries. This YouTube video describes a Duke Health study on the link between firearm access and suicide among individuals with serious mental illnesses. (2 min 2 sec)