topics Policy Research Mental Illness & Mass Murder

Mental Illness & Mass Murder

Mass murder is often associated in the public’s mind with mental illness. Recent attacks have resulted in calls to reform the process for assessing and treating people with mental illnesses, including changes to legal rights (e.g., access to firearms) as well as building more psychiatric hospitals and committing greater numbers of people with mental illnesses to them. Underlying many of these appeals is a concern for public safety and an urgent desire to prevent mass killings. There is also a belief that “a properly structured mental health system” could successfully identify and intercept people who commit mass murder before they are able to act.

In our first white paper, from September 2016, discussing the research on mental illness and mass murder, we explain that while there are common characteristics among many mass murderers, these characteristics are also present in people who do not commit murder. Enhancing timely and assertive community-based treatment for people with mental illnesses who are at risk for committing violent acts – either against others or themselves – holds promise for more broadly reducing the number of victims of violence in the United States each year.

View or download the full white paper Mental Illness and Mass Murder: What the Research Does and Does Not Tell Us.