“A survey of school shootings in the United States revealed that only 17% of the perpetrators had a diagnosis of mental illness,” reports Medscape. The information was presented by Southern Illinois University School of Medicine researchers at the American Public Health Association annual meeting. There were, however, other common, contributing factors that appeared in the majority of cases.
The finding corresponds to a previous study from the US Secret Service and the Department of Education of 37 incidents from 1974 to 2000, which found that only 20% of the shooters had a mental health diagnosis, reports Medscape. The current study identified 157 school shootings from 2005 to 2012, and the researchers then gathered further information from internet news sources. “The presence of mental illness was assumed if evidence came from a credible source, such as if a family member reported a diagnosis, if the patient had been prescribed psychotropic medications, if a legal document contained this information, or if there was evidence of ‘bizarre thinking’ or suicidal thoughts from a Facebook page or diary,” reports Medscape. The researchers conceded that many details are missing because “we don’t have access to data on their mental health.”
“Nearly half the shooters, however, had demonstrated a warning sign associated with violence,” reports Medscape. “These included racism, Nazism, gay bashing, gang membership, previous encounters with the law, poor grades, anger at school personnel or suspension, being bullied or being a bully, obsession with the Columbine shooting, parental mental health problems, and family troubles.”
Factors identified as contributing to school shootings included “gun availability, a cultural script that supports a school shooting in the student’s mind, the perception of an extremely marginal social position within a environment that is important to the student, an individual problem that magnifies the impact of the shooter’s social marginalization (family problems, abuse), and the failure of social support systems designed to identify troubled children.”
(Free registration) Few School Shooters Have Diagnosis of Mental Illness (Medscape, December 5, 2014)