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Perpetrators with unmedicated, untreated brain illnesses behind majority of US mass shootings — study

The major psychiatric analysis by researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine studied US mass shootings spanning decades. Having identified 115 persons behind such crimes committed between 1982 and 2019, based on “the most comprehensive listing available,” the Mother Jones database, they mainly concentrated on the study of surviving assailants. 

We found that most mass shooters in our study experienced undiagnosed and unmedicated psychiatric illness,” the specialists revealed, describing their findings as “striking.” Symptoms of serious brain illness that can be diagnosed as clinical psychiatric disorders were identified in 32 of 35 perpetrators. Most of the shooters – 18 – had schizophrenia, while 10 more were diagnosed with bipolar, delusional and personality disorders. Those with schizophrenia had typical psychotic symptoms such as demons’ messages, paranoid delusions, and command hallucinations to “kill, burn or destroy.”

None were medicated or received other treatment prior to the crime,” according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. It is said to be the first analysis of medical evidence on US domestic mass shooters.

To establish symptoms of mental illness and psychiatric states, the Stanford researchers led by Dr. Ira D. Glick assessed clinical information obtained from multiple sources, including records of forensic psychiatrists and court proceedings, as well as perpetrators’ writings and social media posts. They also researched 20 mass shooting cases in which assailants died at the crime scene, and concluded that at least eight of those had schizophrenia, while seven had other diagnoses, and five had unknown diagnoses – all medically untreated.

While various motives for such deadly crimes, including religious and political influences, have been observed, “psychiatric research… on the nature and the incidence of mental illness among mass shooters, however, remains largely understudied,” the research says, suggesting that timely treatment with appropriate medication might have “decreased violence.” 

Most of the cases of domestic mass murders possibly might have been prevented had the assailant… been more consistently assisted to receive a correct diagnosis… followed by psychiatric medication treatment… to save lives.”

Mass shooting incidents, commonly defined as a crime with four or more victims and excluding gang violence or armed robbery, have been on the rise in the US in recent years. According to the Gun Violence Archive, over 600 such shootings happened last year, compared to over 400 in 2019. This year, over 230 mass shootings have been recorded so far. At the same time, gun-buying has surged in the country, despite its new government aiming to enact more restrictions on firearms. According to a recent poll, 35% of US adults who live in gun-owning households have bought more firearms over the past year. In 2020, 32% of US adults personally owned a gun.

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