Stop Blaming Mental Illnesses For Mass Homicides. Yes, Gov. Glenn Youngkin That’s You!

(12-1-22) I am tired of hearing politicians claim that our broken mental health care system is the cause for mass shootings in America. And yes, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin that includes you.

While individuals with serious mental illnesses have committed atrocities, such as the murders at Virginia Tech, Newtown, and Denver, those mass homicides are not representative of the more than 600 mass shootings so far this year. ( A mass shooting is an event where a minimum of four victims are shot, either injured or killed, not including the shooter.)

NBC’s Meet The Press broadcast a clip of Youngkin on Sunday blaming recent mass murders in Virginia, Colorado and Idaho on our “mental health crisis.” He was one of numerous Republicans who are quick to cite mental illness as the root of mass homicides.

I’m not interested in debating gun control, but I am growing angry about this nonsense. It just isn’t accurate.

Let’s look at the recent shootings that Gov. Youngkin mentioned.

The shooter responsible for killing six of his co-workers at a Walmart Superstore in Chesapeake on November 22nd left behind a note explaining he was getting even after being  “harassed by idiots with low intelligence and a lack of wisdom” at work.  Authorities still aren’t certain why a gunman murdered three and wounded two others at the University of Virginia. But no reports have surfaced suggesting the shooter had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression, the most common serious mental disorders and those most often tied to suicides and violence. The mass shooting at a LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado appears to have been motivated by hate. The deaths of four University of Idaho coeds, according to authorities is thought to be a “crime of passion.”

Grievance, hate, passion and anger are not mental illnesses, governor.

A recent review of 82 mass murders that happened on college campuses found most shooters did not have a severe psychiatric illnesses. Multiple studies have shown that mental illness contributes to only about four percent of all violence and the contribution to gun violence is even lower.

As noted in Psychology Today: “Most of the time, mass shooters aren’t driven by delusions or voices in their head. They are driven by a need to wield their power over another group. They are angry at the perceived injustices that have befallen them at the hands of others… It’s not an altered perception of reality that drives them; it’s entitlement, insecurity, and hatred.”

Blaming mental illnesses for mass shootings further stigmatizes my son and discourages others from seeking mental health help when they are in crisis for fear they will be punished. Consider the recent class action lawsuit filed by students who are alleging they were forced out of Yale University once the school learned they had a mental crisis.

Virginia Democrats rammed through tougher state gun laws after a shooter went on a rampage inside a Virginia Beach Municipal building in 2019 that left 12 dead. The FBI concluded the murderer was motivated by “perceived workplace grievances” – not mental illness.

If the governor really is interested in curbing mass shootings in our state, he should launch a bipartisan investigation into why those laws didn’t stop these shootings and what can be done to prevent further incidents rather than mouthing foolishness about how an average of 13 mass murders a week are caused by our mental health crisis.

He, along with the rest of us, also should ponder why grievance, hate, and anger appear to be on an upswing in our state and nation.

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.