Gun violence and mental illness study addresses perceptions and reality

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A group of international scholars, including several from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) analyzed dozens of epidemiological studies on gun violence and mental illness and compared those results to media reports and public perceptions about the dangerousness of mentally ill individuals. Not surprisingly, the study found a large gap between perception and scientific fact.

The researchers found that mass murderers with mental health problems, while they receive a tremendous amount of media attention, are not typical of those who commit violent crimes, and the vast majority of those with serious mental illness do not engage in violent acts.

The research has been published online in the Annals of Epidemiology and will be published in an upcoming print edition.

A history of violent behavior, especially with criminal justice involvement, and other behavioral indicators of risk are much stronger predictors of future gun violence than having a serious mental health diagnosis, the researchers say, echoing the findings of the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, a group of national experts on gun-violence prevention and mental illness that released a set of federal and state policy recommendations in December 2013.

 
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