Statement of APA President in Response to Mass Shootings in Texas and Ohio

Summary: “Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing. Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness.”

Source: APA

Following is the statement of APA President Rosie Phillips Davis, Ph.D., on the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and in Dayton, Ohio:

“Our condolences are with the families and friends of those killed or injured in these horrific shootings and with all Americans affected every day by the twin horrors of hate and gun violence.

“As our nation tries to process the unthinkable yet again, it is clearer than ever that we are facing a public health crisis of gun violence fueled by racism, bigotry, and hatred. The combination of easy access to assault weapons and hateful rhetoric is toxic. Psychological science has demonstrated that social contagion — the spread of thoughts, emotions and behaviors from person to person and among larger groups — is real, and may well be a factor, at least in the El Paso shooting.”

“That shooting is being investigated as a hate crime, as it should be. Psychological science has demonstrated the damage that racism can inflict on its targets. Racism has been shown to have negative cognitive and behavioral effects on both children and adults and to increase anxiety, depression, self-defeating thoughts, and avoidance behaviors.”

“Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing.”

“Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them. One critical factor is access to, and the lethality of, the weapons that are being used in these crimes. Adding racism, intolerance and bigotry to the mix is a recipe for disaster.”

“If we want to address the gun violence that is tearing our country apart, we must keep our focus on finding evidence-based solutions. This includes restricting access to guns for people who are at risk for violence and working with psychologists and other experts to find solutions to the intolerance that is infecting our nation and the public dialogue.”

For people who are suffering distress in the aftermath of the shootings in Dayton and El Paso, APA offers a variety of resources, including:

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  1. First, the weapon used was NOT an “assault” weapon. “Assault” weapons are used by the military and terrorists who obtain them illegally and as such civilians cannot own them legally without a federal permit to do so. The word “assault” is a verb not a noun and describes an act not an object. Attempting to blame the object for the crime committed by a person is a logical fallacy. Where is this criminal being held responsible for his actions. Is the object responsible for the person’s actions? In any event I agree with Roma above that the perpetrators have a problem at a minimum. Professionals need think logically and get their terms correct before they make fools of themselves when making statements for publication.

  2. Shooters may not have been in treatment or diagnosed for mental illness at the time of their attack, but undoubtedly the majority of them are not what most would consider “normal” personalities. They are almost always from dysfunctional homes, bullying situations, isolated or are in some other circumstance where they consider themselves victimized, and if their situation would have been recognized and remedied, their last final “cry for help” or “angry revenge” certainly could have been defused by treatment in a mental facility or through some other intervention. “Going postal” is not a new term coined since 2016, although it would seem from the media and now the President of the APA to be so.

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