Monday, March 25, 2013

Mass Shootings Increasing Mental Illness Stigma

Intense and widespread news coverage of mass-shooting events like the one in Newtown, Conn., last December often mention that the killer had some type of serious mental illness. In the spring of 2012, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research surveyed about 1,800 people to determine their reactions to hypothetical news stories. They were asked about attitudes towards people with mental illness and about their views on gun-control measures. The report was published online March 20 in AJP in Advance.

Among control subjects who read no such story, about 33 percent said they would not live with or live near a person with a serious mental illness and believed they were more dangerous than other people. About 70 percent favored banning mentally ill individuals from owning guns, and 50 percent were willing to ban high-capacity magazines. Those percentages all ratcheted up even higher after subjects read one of three stories about a mass-shooting event, an event that mentioned gun restrictions for the mentally ill, or a shooting event plus a ban on large-capacity magazines.

“These portrayals of the shooting events raise public support for gun control policies but also contribute to negative attitudes toward those with serious mental illness,” concluded Emma McGinty, M.S., writing in AJP in Advance.

To read about the psychiatric response to the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, see Psychiatric News here. To read the AJP in Advance article, click here.

 (Image: Jeremy What/


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.