Keynote Address: Mental Illness and Mass Shootings: Let’s Talk Truths
Presented by: Jonathan Metzl, MD, PhD, Vanderbilt University
This presentation addresses four assumptions that frequently arise in the aftermath of mass-shootings in the U.S.
- Mental illness causes gun violence
- Psychiatric diagnosis can predict gun crime before it happens
- Shootings represent the deranged acts of mentally ill loners
- Gun control “won’t prevent” another Newtown.
Each of these statements is certainly true in particular instances. Yet as we show, notions of mental illness that emerge in relation to mass shootings frequently reflect larger cultural stereotypes and anxieties about matters such as race, social class, and politics. These issues become obscured when mass shootings come to stand in for all gun crime, and when “mentally ill” ceases to be a medical designation and becomes a sign of violent threat.
- Better understand how assumptions about gun violence intersects against mental illness in the United States
- Critically understand the relationships between violence and mental illness
- Reconsider how and why popular beliefs about gun violence shifted over the twentieth century