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Mon, Nov 24
Is there a link between mental health and gun violence?
When mass shooters strike, speculations about their mental health—sometimes borne out, sometimes not—are never far behind. It seems intuitive that someone who could do something terrible must be, in some sense, insane. But is that actually true? Are gun violence and mental illness really so tightly intertwined?
Jeffrey Swanson, a medical sociologist and professor of psychiatry at Duke University, first became interested in the perceived intersection of violence and mental illness while working at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in the mid-eighties. It was his first job out of graduate school, and he had been asked to estimate how many people in Texas met the criteria for needing mental-health services. As he pored over different data sets, he sensed that there could be some connection between mental health and violence. But he also realized that there was no good statewide data on the connection. “Nobody knew anything about the real connection between violent behavior and psychiatric disorders,” he told me. And so he decided to spend his career in pursuit of that link.