Reassessing Mental Illness' Role in Violence

October 9, 2017

The recent horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas has left many grasping for answers, and as has followed similar tragedies, mental illness is being cited as a possible cause.

In an opinion piece in The Hill, Michelle K. Heyland, DNP, APN, PMHNP-BC, assistant professor in the Department of Community, Systems and Mental Health Nursing, Rush University College of Nursing, urges that the media and the public should resist making mental illness an easy scapegoat for violence. There is also a tendency, she says, in doing this to lump all sufferers and disorders into one group, though their symptoms vary widely.

Heyland acknowledges that while mental illness has been identified in some mass shooters, research shows that only three to five percent of all violent acts are committed by someone with mental illness. Despite this, surveys of public opinion have often shown a majority belief that mental illness directly correlates with violence.

In reality, people with mental illness are a vulnerable population and more likely to become victims of violence themselves.

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