Mental illness and violence may not be as related as people think, according to scientists who are experts in mental health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Researchers pointed out, in a report released today in the journal Health Affairs, that media coverage is linking disproportionately violent actions with mental illness.
According to the report, about 40 percent of news stories about mental illness are somehow connected with violence, an index that is entirely different from the index the researchers published, where only around 5 percent of violent behavior in the U.S. is related directly to mental illness.
Emma McGinty, the leader of the study and an expert in mental health, stated that mental patients are almost never violent to others, but this population is now facing a misconception about them considering the intense media coverage. For McGinty, this panorama creates a social stigma based on false information about the link between people with mental illness and violent actions.
Researchers studied coverage in the leading media outlets
About 400 news stories from major media enterprises were considered. The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN were among the outlets that researchers reviewed. The goal was to use a random sample of media outlets that included major brands in the communication industry.
The trend in the media business comes when violent events need some explanation. Particularly in the central crimes like mass shootings, the TV, and the press cover the situation linking the suspect or suspects with mental illness. The idea is that mental illness could be a logical reason to find the motivation behind a violent behavior. However, this is not the case, according to the researchers.
Considering mental illness as a motivation behind the violence is a misconception. Even though violent people, especially those who can commit a major crime or harm a lot of individuals, certainly have a particular psychological profile, this does not mean that the subject is clinically diagnosed with mental illness.
— Florence Lee (@flrnclee) March 31, 2015
Mass shootings and mental illness
In mass shootings, the perpetrator usually plans the attack and dedicates time and effort actually to execute the crime, features that usually are not compatible with mental illness.
However, this does not mean that there are not cases linked with mental illness. Some major violent acts like the Tuscon shooting where six people were shot, the subject was diagnosed with schizophrenia. In some other extreme cases, some psychotic states were active in the perpetrator.
But mass shootings and high-profile violent behavior are not as connected to mental illness as media states. Most people with mental illness are never violence, as reported by McGinty.
Source: CBS News