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Sun Jun 12, 2016, 08:26 PM

<5% of mental illness linked to violence, freq of violence in news on MI is ~40%


Nearly four in 10 news stories about mental illness analyzed by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers connect mental illness with violent behavior toward others, even though less than five percent of violence in the United States is directly related to mental illness.

A deeper dive into the media coverage found that depictions of mass shootings by individuals with mental illness increased over the course of the study period, from nine percent of all news stories in the first decade to 22 percent in the second decade. The number of mass shootings, according to FBI statistics, has remained steady over the time period. Among the stories that mentioned violence toward others, 38 percent mentioned that mental illness can increase the risk of such violence while eight percent mentioned that most people with mental illness are never or rarely violent toward others.


Schizophrenia was the specific diagnosis most frequently mentioned as related to violence (17 percent) and the two most frequently mentioned risk factors for violence other than mental illness were drug use (five percent) and stressful life events (five percent).

McGinty says the negative stories add to the perception that people with mental illness are dangerous, a stigmatizing portrayal that prior studies have shown leads to a desire for social distance from people with mental illness: people who say they wouldn't want to work with someone with mental illness or wouldn't want someone with mental illness to marry into their families. Such stigma can lead to a reluctance among people with symptoms to seek treatment, problems staying in treatment and discrimination regarding housing and employment.

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