Mental Health’s Impact on Gun Violence1 in 5 Americans are diagnosed with mental illness each year. 1 Mental illness is a complex condition that leads to changes in thinking, emotion, or behavior. These changes lead to distress and problems functioning in social, work, or family activities. As with any ailment mental illness has varying levels of severity. 2 Those with severe mental illness experience hallucinations, delusions, and distortions of their perception. 3 In total there are 10 million Americans diagnosed with a severe mental illness each year and their impact on gun violence is small. 4 With so many people being diagnosed with mental illness an increased amount of attention is being given to this population. Today mental illness is seen by the American people as one of the leading factors of increased gun violence. Gun violence is a major public health concern in America, and its estimated 33,594 people died because of a gun in 2014. 5} With so many gun-related deaths it becomes important to understand the role mental illness has on gun violence. Gun-related homicides are one of the major outcomes of gun violence. The United States is one of the most violent countries with 64% of all worldwide gun-related murders happening in this country. In 2014 11,008 homicides were committed through the use of a gun. 5 Of these deaths studies have shown that only 3% of all violent crimes are perpetrated by a mentally ill person. 6 In fact, according to the Center for Disease control the mentally ill are more likely to be the victims of gun violence instead of the perpetrator. 7 Suicide is the biggest form of gun violence. While only a small portion of homicides are committed by the mentally ill the same can’t be said about gun-related suicide. In 2014, 42,733 people killed themselves and of those suicides, 21,334 were done through the use of a gun. 8 The National Violent Death Reporting System estimates that 21-44% of all suicides were committed by those diagnosed with a mental illness. 9 Just owning a gun increases a person’s risk of suicide fivefold and 90% of suicides by gun owners are committed using their gun. 8 Not only are guns one of the most commonly used methods for suicide they are also the deadliest with 92% of gun-related suicide attempts ending in death. 8 Doctor Manns research showed that 70% of suicidal populations take on average one hour to decide to die by suicide and are more likely to choose an easily accessible method. However, of those who attempt suicide, 90% of them do not try again. With guns being so deadly it makes it hard to save those who have attempted suicide and offers little chance for the person to change their mind and seek medical attention. 8Though the mentally ill play a small role in homicides the media and the public have for a long time viewed this population as a big threat in regard to gun violence. The 1968 Gun Control Act was one of the first regulations that addressed the mentally ill in relation to gun violence. This act made the buying of a gun illegal if you had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital or have been declared mentally unfit to care for yourself. 9 Recently President Obama issued a memorandum focusing on greater regulation and discussion about mental health in the hopes of reducing gun violence. Many support greater gun restrictions focused on the mentally ill. One big proponent of these new regulations is the National Rifle Association who blame Americas’ gun violence endemic on the mentally ill. With both political parties and the NRA viewing mental illness as the leading cause of gun violence public perception of the mentally ill has fallen. 9 A 2013 national opinion survey found that 46% of Americans felt that the mentally ill are more dangerous than the general population. This unpopular opinion of the mentally ill helps to create gun regulations which have proven to be ineffective as the mentally ill contribute to only a small percentage of gun-related crimes. 9 Public health advocates have also been involved in this issue and argue for more research into gun violence to better help with prevention methods. Advocates are also working to educate the public on mental illnesses and its relation to gun violence. 9,10 In conclusion, while suicide rates may be higher in the mentally ill, this population commits only a small percentage of violent crimes. This fact is important for America to understand so that more comprehensive legislation can be created focusing on the core causes of gun violence. Which will help end Americas’ gun violence endemic. 1. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans Suffers From Mental Illness Each Year. Newsweek. 2018. Available at: http://www.newsweek.com/nearly-1-5-americans-suffer-mental-illness-each-year-230608. Accessed January 24, 2018.2. What Is Mental Illness?. Psychiatryorg. 2018. Available at: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-mental-illness.Accessed January 30, 2018.3. Severe Mental Illness | Behavioral Health Evolution. Bhevolutionorg. 2018. Available at: http://www.bhevolution.org/public/severe_mental_illness.page.Accessed January 30, 2018.4. Insel T. NIMH » Mental Health Awareness Month: By the Numbers. Nimhnihgov. 2015. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/directors/thomas-insel/blog/2015/mental-health-awareness-month-by-the-numbers.shtml.Accessed January 30, 2018.5. America’s gun culture in 10 charts. BBC News. 2018. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41488081. Accessed January 24, 2018.6. Knoll J, Annas G. Mass Shootings, and Mental Illness. American Psychiatric Association. 2016.7. Vicaro M, Seitz D. Guns, Crime, and Dangerous Minds. Cultural Studies ? Critical Methodologies. 2016;17(2):147-151. doi:10.1177/1532708615599895.8. Mann J, Michel C. Prevention of Firearm Suicide in the United States: What Works and What Is Possible. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2016;173(10):969-979. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16010069.9. Swanson J, McGinty E, Fazel S, Mays V. Mental illness and reduction of gun violence and suicide: bringing epidemiologic research to policy. Ann Epidemiol. 2015;25(5):366-376. doi:10.1016/j.annepidem.2014.03.004.10. Wahowiak L. Public health joining with new partners to fight gun violence: More than 33,000 US deaths in 2014. Thenationshealthaphapublicationsorg. 2018. Available at: http://thenationshealth.aphapublications.org/content/45/4/1.2.full. Accessed January 30, 2018.