Report: 'Mental illness plays important but limited role in mass violence'

Every mass shooting leaves the nation asking 'why?'

Some blame guns. Others say it’s mental illness, but a recent study found that argument alone can be detrimental to those in need of treatment.

The study argues, statistically, most people who commit mass violence don't have serious mental illness and by generalizing all mental illness as a factor in these horrific acts, millions may be subjected to unnecessary stigma.

“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” President Donald Trump said after the two most recent mass shootings, one in Dayton, Ohio and another in El Paso, Texas.

“People are looking at the United States and wondering what is going on, what is the mental health situation?” questioned Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

Mental illness becomes a target even in cases like El Paso - which the gunman said was inspired by racism - a choice, not condition.

The study just released by the National Council for Behavioral Health found those "with serious mental illness are responsible for less than 4% of all violence and less than one-third of mass violence.”

While it found a limited link between untreated mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorder, With factors like "demographics" and "isolation from society" playing a critical role, researchers found there is "no basis for the public’s generalized fear of people with mental illness." 

CEO of Central Florida Behavioral Health Network Linda McKinnon said they serve between 100,000 and 150,000 people each year.

“For the most part, people with mental illness that use a gun use it on themselves,” McKinnon said. 

She worries the more mental illness is blamed for violence, the less often people will seek help.

“It further stigmatizes people. Nationally, 1-in-5 people has a mental illness,” she said. “I think that the more people that are willing to say, ‘I have a diagnosis and I’ve gotten help and it's helping,’ is a really good thing.”

It's a concern shared by US Sen. Marco Rubio.

“If mental health is equated to someone who is violent, people won't want to come forward,” Rubio said. “I also think there is a lack of services. We don't have enough providers in many communities for it.”

The report recommends red flag laws -- which allow for the temporary removal of guns from high-risk individuals, a measure endorsed by President Trump and already signed into law in Florida. It also recommends involving mental health professionals in threat assessments done by law enforcement, and training for all clinicians on violence risk assessment.