Resources on Mental Health and Violence

I’m asked for resources on mental health and violence distressingly frequently, so I’ve decided to compile a starting point of information here for people to use; this is by no means a complete list, and I’ll try to remember to update it over time. This list also includes links to my own work, since people frequently ask. Please be aware that, as always, I strongly encourage you to do your own research when it comes to seeking out information, verifying facts, and building arguments.

Opinion editorial and commentary

(Note: Many of these include in-line links/citations discussing additional studies and information about mental health and violence.)

Global Comment: Why We Ignore Male Terrorism: On the Santa Barbara Shootings. My discussion of how male terrorism is not correctly identified as such and is instead attributed to mental illness.

The Guardian: ‘Psycho killer’? The Jared Lee Loughner case brings out the usual abuse. A discussion of the hate-filled rhetoric that tends to emerge almost immediately after rampage violence.

Harvard University Press Blog: Misconceptions about Madness and Mayhem. A closer look at the false linkage between mental illness and violence, with some notes on the victimisation rates of mentally ill people, illustrating that we are far more at risk of violence than the general population.

Slate: Crazy Talk. A piece on the jump to conclusions made as soon as news about mass violence breaks out, and the dangers in assuming mental illness lies at the root of any act of violence.

xoJane: For the Last Time, Stop Conflating Violence and Mental Illness. My discussion on xoJane of the narratives that tend to dominate in the wake of rampage violence, and why they’re dangerous for mentally ill people. This piece also discusses the false connection with autism made after the Sandy Hook shooting.

xoJane: Why Are Acts of Evil Always Attributed to “Crazy People” or “Muslim Terrorists”?. A closer look at the racial divide in how people interpret and react to acts of mass violence, and in how people attribute the motivations for rampage violence.

Scientific research

The American Journal of Psychiatry: Effects of Mass Media Messages About Mass Shootings on Attitudes Towards Persons With Serious Mental Illness and Support for Gun Control Policies. A study showing how media coverage of mass shootings affects attitudes about mentally ill people and the gun control debate.

Journalist’s Resource: Mass murder, shooting sprees, and rampage violence: Research roundup. A wealth of studies on rampage violence, including some which specifically discuss the role or lack thereof of mental illness.

Mental Illness Policy: Mentally ill likely to be victims. A roundup of studies on victimisation rates of mentally ill people.

World Psychiatry: Violence and mental illness: an overview. Another compilation of statistics and other information on violence and mental illness, looking at several different studies on the topic.

American Journal of Public Health: Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms. Specifically notes that mentally ill people commit between 3-5 percent of crimes in the US (though they make up 20 percent of the population) and that mentally ill people are less likely to commit gun crime than those who do not have symptoms of mental illness.

Journal of Community Psychology: Impact of a newspaper article on attitudes toward mental illness. How what we read influences the way we think about mentally ill people.

Psychiatric Services: Stigma and public support for parity and spending on mental health. An exploration of the way stigma interacts with people’s support for mental health treatment — paradoxically, though mentally ill people are depicted as a monstrous violent threat, there’s limited support for mental health care.

Health Affairs: Trends in News Media Coverage of Mental Illness in the United States, 1995-2014. “The news media’s continued emphasis on interpersonal violence is highly disproportionate to actual rates of violence among those with mental illnesses. Research suggests that this focus may exacerbate social stigma and decrease support for public policies that benefit people with mental illnesses.”


Mind: Dangerousness and mental health: the facts. A collection of statistics on dangerousness and mental health, noting in particular that only one in ten violent crimes is committed by a mentally ill person.

NAMI: Mental Illness: Facts and Numbers (.pdf). A one-sheet of statistics on mental health conditions, with some specific notes about comorbidities and social disparities associated with mental health conditions.

NIMH: Understanding severe mental illness. A brief discussion of severe mental illness and violence, with notes about when and how the risk of violence may be increased.

SAMHSA: Violence and Mental Illness: The Facts. This overview discusses some statistics on mental health and violence, with links to further reading and studies on the subject, and also notes the role media plays in the continued false linkage between mental illness and violence.

Mentally ill people and police

The Guardian: California’s hidden mental health crisis. My coverage of the Kelly Thomas beating, and the larger implications for mental health services in California.

The Guardian: US police need proper mental health training. My discussion of police violence committed against mentally ill people and the rising use of police as first responders in a broken mental health system.

Human Rights Watch: Mental Illness, Human Rights, and US Prisons. Text of a statement made by Human Rights Watch to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Human Rights and the Law, discussing poor mental health services in US prisons.

Slate: Half of people shot by police are mentally ill, investigation finds. An illuminating piece on a study about police violence towards mentally ill people.

Willamette Week: The First 30 Seconds. In Portland, where police violence has been a consistent problem, law enforcement officers experiment with a program designed to train officers in the proper handling of mentally ill people.

Mental health reporting resources

Mental Health Reporting. An overview of common problems with the media and mental illness, and discussion of how to cover mental illness responsibly and respectfully.

Poynter: How can we explain shootings if we don’t report on mental illness?. A piece discussing the dearth of mental health coverage except in the case of outstanding acts of horrific violence.

Posts from this ain’t livin’ you may be interested in

Mentally Ill People Accused of Crimes Don’t ‘Get Off’ or ‘Walk Free’

Debunking Mythologies About Mental Illness and Domestic Violence

This is Not the Act of A Madman: Systemic Racism, Acts of Violence, and Domestic Terrorism.