Thursday, January 10, 2013

APA Participates in White House Gun-Violence Meeting

Vice President Joseph Biden's Task Force on Gun Violence, formed after the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, heard input from an APA representative at its meeting yesterday at the White House. Former APA President Paul Appelbaum, M.D., now chair of APA's Committee on Judicial Action, emphasized that “Substantial research shows that the vast majority of people with serious mental illnesses never act violently, and the vast majority of violent crimes—96% by the best available estimate—are not perpetrated by persons with mental disorders.” A far greater danger associated with firearms is suicide deaths, he noted, which account for nearly two-thirds of firearm deaths.

He pointed out as well that research shows that "individuals with mental illness who engage in regular treatment are considerably less likely to commit violent acts than those in need of, but not engaged in, appropriate mental health treatment." Yet despite evidence of the effectiveness of mental health treatment, funding for mental health services has plunged in the last few years, particularly in the public sector.

Appelbaum described four strategies to address serious problems in the U.S. mental health system—1) appointing a presidential commission to develop a vision for a system of mental health care; 2) creating a mechanism for facilitating responses to key mental health issues, such as designating a White House point person; 3) improving early identification of youth with mental health problems; 4) and developing "sensible, nondiscriminatory approaches" to ensuring that dangerous individuals cannot gain access to guns.

He stressed as well APA's willingness to work with the administration and Congress in efforts to improve access to and the quality of mental health services and public safety.

Read Appelbaum's full comments on APA's Web site at


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