Pushing back against calls to make it easier to institutionalize people with mental illnesses amid the Sandy Hook massacre, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law released a new report January 15, finding no correlation between firearm-related homicide rates and the number of psychiatric beds.
In the past few decades, the number of people with mental illnesses institutionalized in psychiatric hospitals has decreased dramatically. Even though just a small numbers of the murders nationwide involve people with mental illnesses, some commentators have blamed the recent wave of mass shootings on this trend, arguing that too many people with severe mental illnesses are now roaming around society.
Most disability advocates argue that a better response to decreasing violence from people with mental illnesses is to increase community services, such as improved social services, mobile crisis teams and mental health courts.
“These arguments are often made in the wake of firearms tragedies, when there is a push to implement some quick and palpable reforms,” the report stated. “If expanding the number of psychiatric beds is a meaningful remedy to firearm related murders in this country, one would expect a clear inverse relationship, showing that states with low per capita numbers of psychiatric hospital beds have higher rates of firearm-related homicides or higher rates of incarceration.
“Correlations among these factors were found to be strikingly low and not statistically significant.”