Mass Violence in America

As commissioned by the National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council), the Medical Director Institute (MDI) convened a panel of experts in the field of mental health care and violence for a two-day meeting to analyze violence and its contributing factors. In particular, the panel focused on mental illness as a potential contributing factor to this phenomenon. The resulting report, Mass Violence in America, offers an in-depth root cause analysis and offers recommendations for policy makers and other stakeholders.

The report provides a set of key insights, including:

  • Despite the most tragic outcomes, mass violence are statistically rare events;
  • The perpetrators tend to share similar characteristics and tendencies, including being a male and harboring personal grievances while expressing indifference to life;
  • While there is a modest link between mental illness and violence, having a psychiatric diagnosis is “neither necessary nor sufficient as a risk factor for committing an act of mass violence.”

The last point is particularly significant as the events of mass violence often reinforce a “widespread public belief that mentally ill individuals in general pose a danger to others.” As such, the report aims to reshape the current rhetoric to include other complex contributing social and psychological factors.

Drawing from these observations, the report provides the following suggestions:

  • Establish threat assessment teams within a business or school that includes law enforcement, behavioral health care, human resources, legal and management;
  • Reduce excessive security measures at schools, as well as unnecessary policies, such as zero-tolerance for minor misbehaviors;
  • Create and support broad community partnerships that interact with individuals who have mental illnesses and addictions; and
  • Enact state red flag or extreme-risk protection orders that allow the temporary removal of guns from high-risk individuals.

For more information on topics related to this piece, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Lone Wolf TerrorismDomestic (U.S.) TerrorismSchool ViolenceMass Gatherings, and Active Shooters. Please note:you will need HSDL login to view some of these resources.

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