Blaming the mentally ill for violence is bad public policy as well as just plain misguided

Commentary on the distinct lack of connection between the amount of violence in this country and mental illness from Miller-McCune By Emily Badger:

Obsessing over the role mental illness played in the Gabrielle Giffords shooting avoids the larger issue of gun violence, argues the former head of the American Psychiatric Association….

The best data Appelbaum has found, which dates to the late 1980s and early ’90s, also suggests that, at most, 3-5 percent of violent acts in the U.S. are attributable to serious mental illnesses as a risk factor — and most of those acts don’t involve guns. More recent studies in England and Sweden suggest that number for violent acts may be as low as 1-2 percent.

“To say that another way, if no one with a mental illness committed a violent act, we would still have 95-97 percent of the baseline level of violence,” Appelbaum said. “However you cut it, it looks as though we’re just talking about the tip of the iceberg in terms of problems of violence in our society, which raises the quite reasonable question as to why we’re so focused on the mentally ill?”

Not only is that focus a distraction, he adds, but it comes with the significant downside of further stigmatizing people with mental illness and confusing the public as to the notion that mental illness is a significant cause of violence in this country.

“To take an approach which has substantial costs — the states are spending a lot of money on these databases — and implement it without any evidence suggesting that it’s likely to be effective, and in fact a good deal of inferential reason to believe that it’s not likely to be effective,” Appelbaum said, “is simply not good public policy.” read the rest of the article here

In case you missed it look here for a piece by Glenn Greenwald on why forced commitment is not a good idea as well.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters