In 2017, 60 percent of gun-related deaths in America were suicides (23,854), while 37 percent were murders (14,542). It is widely accepted among other nations that the United States ranks 20th globally for firearm mortality; five South American countries combined constitute half of the world’s firearm deaths. That is more than Canada, Europe, and Australia combined. Since the 1960’s, the number and lethality of guns have increased, and so too has the incidence of mass shootings in schools, places of worship, and shopping centers. While acts of mass violence account for only a small percentage of firearm-related deaths, their devastating and disruptive effects on the communities in which they occur and on the nation are lasting.
Witnessing or being exposed to violent events causes trauma, with lasting changes in the nervous system in children and adults occurring. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including exposure to all types of violence, and the toxic stress caused by fear of violence, are shown to negatively impact prosocial engagement and increase the likelihood of a person developing mental health conditions at all stages of life. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), 50 percent of Americans experience a mental illness at any point in their lifetime, and these individuals are more frequently victims of violence than perpetrators of violence.
To say mental illness is a predictor of violence, as is witnessed in the nation today, is misleading and wrongfully represents millions of people struggling with a mental health condition. Depression and anxiety are the leading cause of disability globally, and many people live with these and other mental illnesses around the world. To be frank, most people struggling with a mental illness are not violent: 95-97 percent of homicidal gun violence is not carried out by individuals with a mental illness. However, suicide is often linked with depression and is the number ten cause of death in adults in the U.S. (number three cause for youths). Firearm deaths associated with mental illness are nearly always suicides. A suicide attempt with a firearm often results in death almost 85 percent of the time, but the common means of attempting suicide, i.e., drug overdose and cutting, result in death less than 3 percent of the time. If mental illness were eliminated, gun violence in America would decrease by only 4 percent.
Having a history of violence, youth justice-involvement, physical interpersonal abuse, and parental justice-involvement are the key predictors of future violence. Clinical factors predominantly linked to an increased risk of violence include substance abuse. Dispositional factors that are predictors of violence are youth (younger age), being male, and low socioeconomic status. Contextual factors linked to violence are major life changes, i.e., divorce, unemployment, or victimization. Expressions of hate, rage, and threatening behavior are not mental illnesses but are predictors of violence. Committing people to involuntary treatment will do little to prevent them from engaging in violent acts, including gun violence. Policymakers will realize more by addressing the root causes of gun violence in our nation (mental health is not the root cause). Additionally, lawmakers must also provide resources for the prevention and early intervention to treat individuals struggling with mental health conditions because it is the right thing to do, not because it is a solution to violence of any kind.
If you are feeling any of these symptoms then it is time to get some help!!