Gun Violence and Mental Illness

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r6lmc4fyluFirst of all, what a horrible event in Fort Lauderdale today.  Must have been terrifying for all those who were there and witnessed the event.  My deep condolences go to those who lost someone or knew anyone who got hurt.  God Bless you, and help with your healing. You all shall be in my families’ prayers tonight.

It has been proposed that the perpetrator of this terrible episode might have had a mental illness or disorder.  Irrespective of whether that indeed bears out to be the case, it is unnerving to me that it was only yesterday that I was in a lecture by Dr. Rahn Bailey, who is campaigning to be the next president of the American Psychiatric Association, on gun violence and mental illness. Even though the likelihood of gun violence amongst those with mental illness or mental disorder is not much higher than that of the general population, it really is no comfort at all to the victims, as one episode is definitely one too many.

Whilst the immediate aftermath of this episode might be to increase stigma against those experiencing a mental illness or mental disorder, it is worth cautioning, and indeed appealing, for fairness and even handedness.  All those with a mental illness or a mental disorder need to be treated with the utmost respect, and not suspected or judged as being on the brink of a violent episode. Indeed, most gun violence is perpetrated by individuals who do not have a mental illness or mental disorder. Nevertheless, doctors and health workers need to be continuously aware that they all have a duty and role to be protectors of the population, and are charged to work in everyone’s interests to identify and get help for anyone who might be a danger to themselves or others.

More research is definitely needed to understand with greater precision the relationship between mental illness or mental disorder and gun violence.  Arguably, perhaps better methods of enhancing screening and follow up procedures for those at risk for harm to themselves or others also need to be considered.

For now, irrespective of the precipitating cause, all we can hope is that all those who are affected in anyway, either physically or mentally, or both, get the help and comfort that they need, over and above the ineveitable rush to ascribe blame or wrongdoing.