Homicides, guns, and untreated mental illness

My days often start with reports of gun related homicides.  

What does this say about crime in the US?

Each morning, in our home, my husband and I are accompanied by CNN’s “New Day”, which airs from 6-9 am.  Just one building block in the f ever-growing world of 24/7 news, it is my first glimpse of  the outside world, – before Facebook, before Twiiter or email, and before speaking to anyone outside our apartment. I rely on Chris Cuomo and, to a lesser degree, Alisyn Camerota and Michaela Pereira, to tell me what CNN believes I should consider important, essential information.

The first segment I saw echoed the news of the previous two days.  On Wednesday, August 26, 2015, news Roanoke, Virginia area TV journalist Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were shot and killed while broadcasting a live interview with Chamber of Commerce member Vicki Gardner. Vester Flanagan, the man accused of the shooting, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while fleeing from the police in a rental car.

While yesterday’s reports had centered on the victims and their families, the focus today was on Gardner, his mental state, and gun control.  Someone argued in favor of background checks that include mental health information to be mandatory for gun sales..  My mind snapped to attention as I waited to hear what the “expert” (in this case a mental health worker) would say.

“That wouldn’t be effective because the majority of these people have never sought treatment for mental health issues.”

And that, as they say, is the thing of it.

When I Google, “percentage mentally ill violent untreated, and get, “About 437,000 results.”  The first article I click on displays a 1994 claim by the Department of Justice that, among the 20,000 homicides committed annually in the United States, “approximately 1000 are committed by people with untreated schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org).

With each new mass shooting in the

guns mental illness and homicides

Trends in rates of mental illness in homicide perpetrators

country, the media reports that the perpetrators suffer from a mental illness.  Often, the phrase used is, “undiagnosed mental illness.”  Our news organizations seem eager to report that the people who commit these crimes display, “symptoms of schizophrenia,” or, at the very least, “paranoid behavior that indicates serious mental illness.”

With so many of these shootings ending in the death of the shooter, how is the media diagnosing the alleged killers so quickly?



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