The Medical Director of the National Council for Behavioral Health, Joe Parks, has made an announcement: Mental illness plays a significant role in causing public acts of violence. In an expert panel, he has declared that "mental illness is not a major cause of mass violence". Rather, it is the cumulative effect of anger and hate combined, which remains unresolved until the person finally explodes.
He strongly believes that mass violence has many contributing factors and it would be wrong to lump them all together into a single cause. Healio Psychiatry has published a report, containing statistics about how people with severe mental illness only committed around 4% of all violent crimes, making up less than a third of mass violence incidents.
Mental Disorders Should Not be Associated with Violence
But it seems that policymakers aren't willing to listen as they continue blaming mental illnesses for pushing people over the edge. This message is detrimental to people who are being treated for mental health issues; they are now being targeted for discrimination and stigmatized further by the public. The truth is, most mentally ill people have not behaved violently nor tried to harm those in their community.
Health care organizations should be mindful of the following prevention efforts to stop violent crimes:
- Deploying multi-disciplined threat assessment teams with security forces and law enforcement officers
- Training their staff on steps to reduce lethal violence in case an individual is suicidal or threatens to harm others
- Educating employees on how to deal with situations involving compassion fatigue or ongoing trauma victims
Addressing the Warning Signs of Mass Violence in Health Care
If someone is presented as a danger to themselves or the public, then threat management teams can override health care confidentiality laws to intervene before the problem escalates. Behavioral health professionals are encouraged to recognize the signs of potential risk and danger that precludes a violent incident.
In addition, experts are called upon to further research the psychological and sociological factors that lead to mass violence, prior to sending out a detailed investigation of each incident, followed by issuing an extreme-risk protection order. This is only possible if behavioral health centers across the nation, are being adequately funded.
To learn more about this and related issues, visit the Mental Health section of our blog.
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