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Psychiatrist: Mass shooters have personality disorders and are likely not mentally ill
Oakland County officials in Michigan are actively working to change the stigma attached to mental health issues. (iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Psychiatrist: Mass shooters have personality disorders and are likely not mentally ill

A psychiatrist testified at a public hearing in Michigan's Oakland County on Tuesday that mental health issues do not automatically place a person at risk for mass shooting or suicide, based on his research of the phenomenon.

The Oakland County Public Services Committee heard from a number of physicians and other health care professionals about their day-to-day interactions and dealings with gun violence prevention. This was the committee's sixth consecutive meeting regarding the issue.

“We have to look at new strategies in combating gun violence,” Committee Chairman Bill Dwyer told the group, the Oakland Press reported. “I think everything has to start in the home on the part of the parents. Accidental shootings occur because of unsecured firearms. It’s frustrating because lives are being lost.”

Health care workers from the nearby hospital, Beaumont Hospital-Farmington Hills, came to the meeting to answer any questions the committee had about treating victims of gun violence and those with mental health problems.

The health care team agreed that further education is needed, especially about the dangers associated with having a firearm in the home.

The psychiatrist on the team, Dr. Theodore Ruza, made one point very clear: Having a mental illness does not automatically mean the person is at risk for committing a mass shooting or suicide. People who have personality disorders, not mental illnesses, like anxiety and depression, are more likely to carry out these firearms-related incidents.

If you as the physician don’t ask the questions, the patient is not going to tell you what’s wrong. I don’t have many people that come into my office and say, "I’m actively hallucinating and hearing voices that tell me to kill someone."

About one percent or less of those that commit these crimes have a psychiatric diagnosis. Mental health does not mean that you’re at-risk for mass shootings or suicide. What pre-disposes you to a mass shooting are personality disorders like narcissistic personality, paranoid personality and anti-social personality.

According to Ruza, the general public automatically buys the notion that all mass shooters have some sort of mental illness, which he says is completely false.

“Less than one percent have a true psychiatric diagnosis," Ruza said. He did not indicate what share of psychiatric disorders go undiagnosed.

The county and Oakland Community Health Network have partnered together to launch a campaign aimed at reducing the stigma behind mental illness. The partnership also focuses on promoting the county's "Lock-It-Up" initiative, which provides free gun locks to residents and encourages parents to safely store their firearms in their home.

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