Top doctor: Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing

Authorities believe the shooting in El Paso, which has led to the deaths of at 21 people by Monday afternoon, was a hate crime targeting immigrants and Hispanic people. (Source: MGN)
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(KNOE) - The president of the American Psychological Association has a message for people who always blame "mental illness" after a mass shooting. She says routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is a mistake and doesn't address the main issues at hand. Furthermore, it could make things more difficult for other people who suffer from mental issues, like anxiety and depression.

In a statement released online, Dr. Rosie Phillips Davis, PhD, addressed the idea, which has once again come up after the murder of 30+ people in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend.

In the statement, she said, “Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing. Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them."

She goes on to say that we are facing a public health crisis of gun violence fueled by racism, bigotry, and hatred. Furthermore, that hatred is being spread from person to person. The website 8chan was recently cited as an example after a manifesto believed to be written by El Paso shooter Patrick Crusius was found online.

"Psychological science has demonstrated that social contagion — the spread of thoughts, emotions and behaviors from person to person and among larger groups — is real, and may well be a factor, at least in the El Paso shooting," she said. "Racism has been shown to have negative cognitive and behavioral effects on both children and adults and to increase anxiety, depression, self-defeating thoughts and avoidance behaviors."

You can read Dr. Rosie Phillips Davis' full statement here.

Authorities believe the shooting in El Paso, which has led to the deaths of at 21 people by Monday afternoon, was a hate crime targeting immigrants and Hispanic people. The U.S. Attorney is treating this shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.

Authorities believe that the suspect posted a hate-filled manifesto online to the website 8chan, which has become host to child pornography, extremist views and imagery, racism and hate under the banner of free speech. The mosque killing in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the synagogue shooting in Poway, Calif., were also announced on the site, according to the Associated Press.

In the Ohio shooting, a hate crime has been ruled out for the time being, but police have said there was nothing in Betts' background that would have prevented him from buying the rifle used in the shooting.