Can mental health status screen out potential mass shooters? The National Institute of Mental Health
keeps nationwide statistics that are the basis for the data provided by the National Alliance on Mental Health website that summarizes the state of our nation’s mental health.
Approximately one in six adults in the U.S. “...43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.
“Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental
illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
“Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point
during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.”
“1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.
2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.
6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.
Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2
million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.”
NAMH analyzed the data for social factors and found: “An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying
in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have “a recent history” of a mental health condition.
70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% live with a serious mental illness.
Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year.
Just over half (50.6%) of children aged 8-15 received mental health services in the previous year....
Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. Despite effective
treatment, there are long delays—sometimes decades—between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.”
These numbers are huge. And yet there is good reason to believe that men are under-represented because they are less likely to seek assistance for mental health concerns for many reasons including lack of insurance, and the perceived stigma of weakness, especially among men over 40.
And in most states, a professional mental diagnosis is not in itself grounds for preventing gun ownership. It usually takes a court action to deprive a person of their second amendment rights. Hindsight in the case of many school shootings may reveal prior mental concerns, but rarely would these have resulted in a ruling preventing gun ownership.
But the above conditions do not begin to address the possibility of a mentally healthy person killing in the heat of passion or with calculated foreplanning.
The claim that anyone who commits mass murder must necessarily be insane is simply wrong.
In Norway, Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing extremist, was responsible for the deaths of 77 people, some as young as 14, who were attending a Youth League camp in July 2011. This mass shooter was found to be mentally sane and articulate, entering the courtroom with his arm stretched out in the Nazi salute.
If outrage alone is sufficient, then who is safe with a gun?