Disability Rights Maine Statement on Violence and Mental Illness

On a nearly daily basis, we witness situations of mass violence across our country. The Gun Violence archive reports that there have been 131 mass shootings in the first three months of 2023. It is unfathomable.

As people search for answers to why this keeps happening, the blame quickly lands on individuals with labels of mental illness. We must confront this stigmatizing narrative. People with psychiatric labels are not the cause of violence in our country. Across the world, more than 790 million people live with a diagnosed mental health disorder. Yet, we only see this pervasive violence occur in the United States, where the number of guns owned by civilians out numbers our total population.[1]

As noted when DRM signed onto the 2020 joint statement from the Coalition for Smart Safety, only 4% of gun violence is connected to individuals with mental health disabilities. And, more often, people with psychiatric labels are victims, rather than perpetrators of violence. Simply put, placing blame on people with mental illness will not solve our country’s violence problem. Rather, it makes people with mental health disabilities the scapegoat while failing to bring about effective policy changes.

While we do not know and cannot predict the cause of every violent incident in our country, we must act nationally to reduce access to guns for everyone.

To dispel myths about mental illness and gun violence, we encourage you to access the following resources:

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-25/how-many-guns-in-the-us-buying-spree-bolsters-lead-as-most-armed-country?leadSource=uverify%20wall