Mental Illness and Mass Shootings
When someone commits a mass shooting, people often focus on the shooter’s mental health. While this can be an insightful way to comprehend what transpired and its repercussions, it could also create misperceptions about mental illness that could deter people from seeking help.
Research has demonstrated that mass shootings have devastating effects on those who witness them, those living in communities where they take place and those associated with the demographic groups targeted. These impacts include increased depression and other mental health disorders among adolescents and adults alike; worsened infant health; as well as reduced overall community and emotional well-being.
Mental health researchers are increasingly using data to better comprehend the long-term impacts of mass shootings on victims and their communities. While there is limited empirical evidence about whether specific mental health interventions are effective at preventing or mitigating these harms, many states and local governments provide counseling services to victims immediately following these incidents.
Though mental health intervention is becoming increasingly urgent in light of these tragic events, researchers and practitioners face several obstacles. First, mass shootings tend to occur rarely and without warning, which limits sample sizes and may lead to biased findings. Furthermore, mass shootings typically take place in environments that make people particularly vulnerable to gun violence; additionally, many mass shooters have histories of domestic violence or other types of assault and battery.