The relationship, responses, and reforms pertaining to gun violence and mental illness in the United States
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The United States faces an ever-growing public health concern of gun violence, having the highest rate of homicide by firearm use among Western countries. American leaders on this subject have debated for many years on how to address this issue. Such debate, in turn, has brought up the concern of the mentally ill in possession of firearms, especially in light of mass shootings. The goal of this thesis is to determine the existence of a relationship between gun violence and mental illness. The significance of discerning this relationship is multi-faceted in that gun violence psychologically traumatizes its victims and also has been linked with mental illnesses in a stigmatizing manner, thanks to the spotlight on mass shootings by the media. Through literature analysis of the behaviors of those with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and alcohol abuse, it was determined that, although increasing a person’s chances for experiencing at-risk behaviors for violence, intrinsic mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are not statistically associated with gun violence. In fact, not only has it been reported that very few firearm-related acts of violence are linked with those with mental illnesses, but also it has been noted that those with serious psychiatric disorders are victimized more often than a person without mental illness. Consequently, it is critical for physicians, lawmakers, and even the general public to take active measures to ensure that those with mental illnesses are not shamed for their condition and receive the necessary services to lead an ordinary lifestyle among their peers.