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ISPS-US Statement on Mass Shootings and "Mental Illness"

While the number of mass shootings in the United States has risen sharply over the past 20 years, and shows no sign of slowing down, some public leaders have erroneously blamed "mental illness" for these horrific crimes. ISPS-US joins Mental Health America, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association in condemning statements that blame or suggest that "mental illness" is the culprit behind these crimes.

Scientific literature has made it clear that the association between violence and psychiatric diagnosis is generally weak and that there are variables that are far more predictive of dangerous behavior. For example, domestic violence and violence against women are highly correlated with mass gun violence.

The myth of the paranoid madman has been amplified and exploited to distract policymakers from exploring social and economic issues that have the potential to create a less violent culture for all of us, including greater access to health care, strengthening family and social connections and reducing income inequality.

ISPS-US also condemns the creation of "red flag" rules based mental health diagnosis or involuntarily hospitalization. These "red flag" rules operate under the false assumptions that people who receive mental health treatment are at increased risk of violent behavior, that mental health diagnoses are valid and reliable, and that mental health professionals are able to accurately predict violence. These assumptions are erroneous and drastically increase stigmatization of people who receive mental health diagnoses, in particular, schizophrenia.