What is it about?

To examine the perceived link between mental illness and mass shootings, we used data from the Violence Project Database of Mass Shootings in the United States—mental health variables, including the history of psychiatric hospitalization, medication, counseling, and the diagnoses received, and other variables like what motivated shooters, what was known about their life circumstances, criminogenic risk factors, and their access to guns. Results showed that the actual role of psychosis in mass shootings has been relatively stable over time, even as the number of mass shootings has risen sharply in the past few years. Psychosis does not appear to have played a role in 69 percent of all shootings since 1966. When examined more closely, psychosis was deemed to have played a major role in 10.5 percent of shootings, a moderate role in 8.7 percent of cases, and only a minor role in 11 percent of cases.

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Why is it important?

Mass shootings are more frequent and deadly. We find that mental illness—specifically psychosis—is not a key factor in most mass shootings, despite what politicians routinely say. This means that fixating on mental illness exclusively will do little to address the problem of mass shootings in society.

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This page is a summary of: Psychosis and mass shootings: A systematic examination using publicly available data., Psychology Public Policy and Law, May 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/law0000314.
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