Last week, President Donald Trump reiterated the flawed notion that mental illness is the root cause of gun violence in America. He then called for the reopening of institutions to house Americans with mental illness, suggesting they were too dangerous to be “on the streets.”
This is a perilous scapegoating that falsely stigmatizes the millions of Americans with mental health concerns. It also sidesteps other factors in gun violence, such as the prevalence of firearms in America and a flawed, incomplete background check system.
Research has not found a link between mental health conditions and gun violence. Rather, people with serious mental illness are actually 10 times more likely than the general population to be the victims of violent crimes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They are also much more likely to harm themselves than others, which is a reason to consider further limits on gun access to prevent suicides, which outnumber homicides in the U.S.
But, the president is right about one thing: Mental health care systems in America need dramatic improvement.
Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services, Maine