Wednesday, June 8, 2022

APA Joins Numerous Organizations in Denouncing Attempts to Link Mental Illness and Gun Violence

APA denounced the “false and harmful attempts to link mental illness and gun violence” in a statement issued yesterday in partnership with 59 other health, mental health, and youth services organizations.

“The horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two adults on May 24th is just one in a long series of mass shootings throughout our country,” APA and its partners said. “These shootings have one thing in common—easy access to weapons that can kill with terrifying efficiency on a massive scale.”

Attempts to connect mental illness to mass shootings are a distraction that inflicts enormous damage by taking attention from solutions that could prevent such events. “This perpetuates a false narrative that encourages stigmatization of and discrimination against the millions of Americans living with mental health conditions who are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it. In fact, persons with mental illness account for a very small portion of gun violence.”

The statement echoes a statement issued last week by APA imploring Congress to enact legislation that increases research on firearm violence; requires background checks, waiting periods, and safe storage of firearms; and allows physicians to make clinically appropriate inquiries regarding access to firearms.

The joint statement unites a wide range of organizations including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the National Association of School Psychologists, the Council of Administrators of Special Education, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

APA and the other organizations note that while mental health conditions are common in countries across the globe, the United States is the only country where mass shootings have become disturbingly commonplace. “In fact, firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in the United States. Not coincidentally, the U.S. is also alone in making firearms widely available with few restrictions.”

A large majority of adults in the United States experience stress associated with mass shootings, and a third of U.S. adults say that fear of mass shootings stops them from going to certain places and events, the statement points out. “Moreover, research has shown that victims and members of affected communities experience increases in posttraumatic stress symptoms, depression, and other signs of psychological concerns. Other studies have found that, after previous mass shootings, youth felt less safe and more fearful. These findings, many of which are unsurprising, make it all the more important to take urgent action to prevent these shootings, particularly in light of our nation’s ongoing youth mental health crisis.”

The organizations urged bipartisan efforts to improve the country’s mental and substance use system, which will enhance the nation’s well-being and improve or save countless lives. “However, what these reforms alone will not do is address the epidemic of mass shootings. To prevent more carnage, policymakers must act now to address the national crisis of gun violence and work on a bipartisan basis to pass meaningful solutions that promote gun safety in all of our communities.”

For related information, see APA’s Position Statement on Firearm Access, Acts of Violence, and the Relationship to Mental Illness and Mental Health Services and the Psychiatric News article “Researchers Discuss Policy Solutions to Firearm Violence, Suicide.”

(Image: iStock/skynesher)

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