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Whenever we hear about another tragedy involving gun violence, we grieve along with our fellow citizens and community members impacted by it.

NAMI sees gun violence as a national public health crisis that impacts everyone.

Every time we experience a tragedy involving guns, people with mental illness are drawn into the conversation. The truth is that the vast majority of violence is not perpetrated by people with mental illness. Statements to the contrary only serve to perpetuate stigma and distract from the real issues. Far too often, we hear stigmatizing comments and generalizations about people with mental illness being violent, which simply isn’t true. This kind of misinformation comes as a punch in the gut to those of our family and community members living with mental health conditions.

The overwhelming majority of people with mental illness are not violent. Most people with mental health conditions will never become violent, and mental illness does not cause most gun violence. In fact, studies show that mental illness contributes to only about 4% of all violence, and the contribution to gun violence is even lower.

Research shows an increased risk of gun violence comes from a history of violence, including domestic violence; use of alcohol or illegal drugs; being young and male; and/or a personal history of physical or sexual abuse or trauma. Mental illness alone is not a predictor of violence.

We need to be careful that the response to these tragedies does not discourage people with mental health conditions from seeking treatment. Stigma far too often prevents people from getting the help they so desperately need. “When people unfairly connect mass shooters with mental illness, it stigmatizes the millions of people living with mental health struggles who are not violent,” said NAMI’s National Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, Kimball Angela.

While the relationship between mental illness and gun violence is very low, we need reasonable options. This includes making it possible for law enforcement to act on credible community and family concerns in circumstances where people are at high-risk.

We need to have an honest and productive national conversation about all the factors that play into this type of violence and what we can do to prevent these tragedies. Only then can we find meaningful solutions to protecting our children and communities.

More on the Subject

NAMI National statement on mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

NAMI California and NAMI Ventura statement on Thousand Oaks shooting.