Marsha Linehan is cited in a Psychology Today article about the relationship between mental health and mass shootings.
Improved Mental Health Care Won’t Prevent Mass Shootings
Neither mental health care nor gun control measures will end mass shootings.
Noam Shpancer Ph.D, Posted Mar 27, 2018
With every school shooting, a chorus arises to highlight the link between mass killings and mental illness and to demand better mental health care as a common sense solution to the problem.
For one, it's an encouraging sign when policymakers and the public look to psychological science for answers. When policymakers turn to psychology and call for improvements in mental health services, it is a sign of the field’s legitimacy and cultural ascendance. The call for better mental health also offers a rare point of agreement for the many factions in the American political space that are otherwise usually at odds. After all, who can be against better mental health services?
The fact that this chorus constitutes a cynical — and by now transparent — political feint aimed at steering the discussion away from the subject of guns is disappointing, but that does not automatically disqualify the proposed solution. The claim that better mental health services will lead to a reduction in gun massacres deserves consideration on its own merit.
It is indeed true that America needs better mental health services. A better mental health system, one where high-quality treatments are covered adequately by insurance, where mental health care is well integrated with the primary care system, where individuals are routinely screened for mental health risks, and where high-quality and affordable preventative and restorative care is normative and widely available — all that would be highly likely to help many people. A better mental health system would also help the economy by reducing the rates of lost productivity and by supporting vulnerable individuals through rough stretches in their lives, helping them avoid costly and risky crises and breakdowns. It would no doubt help families cope better with stress and their children succeed better in school. It would likely be particularly helpful for the many mentally ill individuals who are routinely victims of violence.
Alas, one thing an improved mental health system would not be likely to do is prevent school shootings.
In fact, the familiar narrative whereby calls for better mental health crop up immediately after a mass murder is unhelpful in solving the gun violence crisis, and it may do more harm than good for the mentally ill. Associating mental illness with mass murder serves mainly to increase the stigma already plaguing mental illness. Statistically, mental illness is a poor predictor of violent behavior. The notion that mental illness causes mass shootings serves to further stereotype a large, diverse, and largely nonviolent, law-abiding population of people diagnosed with psychiatric conditions.
It is telling in this context that we don’t hear calls for better mental health programs when a mentally ill person is killed by police or otherwise victimized — both of which are far more common than violence the other way around. In fact, the severely mentally ill are much more justified in fearing us than we are in fearing them. It would be heartening, and more appropriate, if calls for better mental health arose in the wake of publicized success stories — such as the recent story of Michael Weinstein, M.D., a surgeon who overcame severe depression; or Brad Stulberg, a peak performance expert who survived a struggle with debilitating anxiety; or the psychologist Marsha Linehan, who survived her own early battle with borderline personality disorder to become an expert on the disorder, devising a highly effective therapy approach for dealing with it; or Dr. Elyn Saks, a professor at the University of Southern California School of Law, who has managed to remain productive while dealing with schizophrenia; etc.
Read the entire article here.