Compiling a database of all mentally ill people to help prevent violence, as some have suggested, is a flawed notion.
In a study done by the National Institute of Mental Health (as reported in the New York Times, Dec. 18, 2012, “A Misguided Focus on Mental Illness in Gun Control Debate”), nearly 18,000 subjects were followed over a lifetime to measure prevalence of violence.
There was no difference between people with mental illness and those without accruing in 7 percent of the sample.
People with undiagnosed or untreated schizophrenia and bipolar run a 16 percent risk.
Those whose illness is kept in balance with medication pose no more risk than you or I.
Finally, people who abuse alcohol and drugs run a 49 percent likelihood of prevalence of violence, or seven times the average, over those who don’t.
If the current debate leads to help for the most severe forms of mental illness, I say wonderful — for them and us.
As mental hospitals closed, many people ended up on the streets or in prison, where they get worse. Instead of scapegoating the mentally ill with a broad brush, the focus should be on those who are out of control or have a history of violence.
People with a history of violence when intoxicated should be included in a background check, as well.
Paul H. Campbell