Because there were tell-tale signs that the Umqua Community College shooter in Roseburg, Oregon was mental unstable, the issue of mental health has once again become a part of the national discourse.
Almost immediately after the identity of the UCC shooter became public, questions arose about his mental health. Experts, however, say the association between mental health and mass shootings only adds to the stigma of mental health, and may deter those who need professional help from getting it.
“The stigma is so great, nobody talks about having a mental condition,” said Ann Collentine, program director for California Mental Health Services Authority.
Collentine says though some mass murderers so have mental issues, the vast majority of those with a mental illness don’t exhibit them through violence.
According to RAND research, one in five Americans will suffer some form of mental illness at some point.
“We need to address the stigma, so individuals seek help who are living with a mental illness,” said Collentine.
“It is a small segment of people with a mental illness, but it is an important indicator,” said Rebecca Gonzales, co-president of Sacramento’s Brady Campaign chapter.
Gonzales says for violent offenders who showed clear signs of mental illness, it is important to address their mental state.
She supported assembly bill 1040, which will allow family members of troubled gun owners to report them, and have authorities remove their firearms, and believes the bill may also reduce the number of suicides in California.
“What is clear is in many of these cases is that the perpetrator gave warning signs,” said State Assemblyman Das Williams, who sponsored AB 1040.
Willilams wrote the bill following the infamous Isla Vista shooting, in which a gunman killed 7 people including himself.
The gunman’s family members went to authorities weeks before, concerned with his behavior, with no results. Williams thinks his legislation could have prevented that tragedy, if its policies were in place during the time of the shooting.
“These shootings have become so commonplace in our society that it’s only a matter of time before it happens here in California again,” said Williams.
Though he believes the propensity of mass shootings have become an unfortunate reality in the U.S., Williams is hopeful his bill might curb gun violence in California.