Any time a mass shooting occurs in America—which is basically every week at this point—hoards of people start blaming "mental health." Despite the fact that every other developed nation also has people with mental illnesses and nowhere near our mass shooting numbers, mental health becomes the scapegoat for people who insist that gun violence has nothing to do with guns.

On the surface, it may seem like a plausible enough theory. After all, no one in a sane state of mind walks into a concert, a shopping center, or a place of worship and starts shooting people randomly. Such folks are clearly not right in the head, so "mental health" seems like a logical place to go.

RELATED: Twice as many American children die from gun violence as police officers and soldiers combined

But according to the American Psychological Association—the actual experts in mental health—that blame is misplaced. Instead, they say, the toxic combination of "easy access to assault weapons and hateful rhetoric" and the "negative cognitive and behavioral effects" of racism are the ills that we really need to be addressing if we want to stop mass killings.

APA President Rosie Phillips Davis, PhD, released the following statement on the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. It's worth reading in full:


"Our condolences are with the families and friends of those killed or injured in these horrific shootings and with all Americans affected every day by the twin horrors of hate and gun violence.

"As our nation tries to process the unthinkable yet again, it is clearer than ever that we are facing a public health crisis of gun violence fueled by racism, bigotry and hatred. The combination of easy access to assault weapons and hateful rhetoric is toxic. Psychological science has demonstrated that social contagion — the spread of thoughts, emotions and behaviors from person to person and among larger groups — is real, and may well be a factor, at least in the El Paso shooting.

"That shooting is being investigated as a hate crime, as it should be. Psychological science has demonstrated the damage that racism can inflict on its targets. Racism has been shown to have negative cognitive and behavioral effects on both children and adults and to increase anxiety, depression, self-defeating thoughts and avoidance behaviors.

"Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing. Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them. One critical factor is access to, and the lethality of, the weapons that are being used in these crimes. Adding racism, intolerance and bigotry to the mix is a recipe for disaster.

"If we want to address the gun violence that is tearing our country apart, we must keep our focus on finding evidence-based solutions. This includes restricting access to guns for people who are at risk for violence and working with psychologists and other experts to find solutions to the intolerance that is infecting our nation and the public dialogue."

Related: Most domestic terrorism comes from white supremacists, FBI tells lawmakers

So, here we have the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the United States weighing in on the mental health and mass shootings debate. And really, isn't their opinion the one that matters most? We have experts in specific fields who dedicate their lives to research for a reason. If we're going to talk about mental health, we should be consulting with and listening to the people who study this stuff for a living.

The experts have spoken. Mental health, while definitely an issue that needs addressing in general, is not to blame for America's mass shooting problem. Hatred, bigotry, and racism, combined with easy and ubiquitous access to guns designed to quickly inflict massive damage, is largely what drives these shootings to keep happening. Until we address both of those things, no amount of mental health help is going to put an end to the carnage America keeps experiencing.

True
Firefox

This slideshow shows how you can protect your information.

View Slideshow

This week, viral photos from the first day of school in various Georgia counties showed students crowded together with few masks in sight. Schools in the same area had to shut down entire classrooms due to positive tests after the first day back, quarantining students and teachers for two weeks.

In these counties, students are "encouraged" to wear a mask at school, but they are not required. Mask-wearing is referred to as a "personal choice."

This week, a private Christian college in a town near where I live announced that is planning to resume in-person classes this fall. The school has decided that students will not be required to wear masks, despite the fact that the town itself has a mask mandate for all public spaces. "No riots. No masks. In person. This fall," the college wrote in a Facebook post advertising the school last month.

The supposed justification for not requiring students to wear masks is that it's a "personal choice," and that students have the freedom to choose whether to wear one or not.

That's a neat story. Except it is totally hypocritical coming from schools and school districts that have no problem placing limits on personal choice and freedom by mandating stringent dress codes for students.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo from Dole
True

As you sit down to eat your breakfast in the morning or grab an afternoon snack, take a minute to consider your food, how it was made, and how it got to your plate.

The fruit on your plate were grown and picked on farms, then processed, packaged and sent to the grocery store where you bought them.

Sounds simple, right?

The truth is, that process is anything but simple and at every step in the journey to your plate, harm can be caused to the people who grow it, the communities that need it, and the planet we all call home.

For example, thousands of kids live in food deserts and areas where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited. Around the world, one in three children suffer from some form of malnutrition, and yet, up to 40% of food in the United States is never eaten.

Keep Reading Show less

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

Keep Reading Show less
via The Hubble Telescope

Over the past few years, there has been a growing movement to fight back against some of the everyday racism that exists in America.

The Washington Redskins of the NFL have temporarily changed their name to the Washington Football Team until a more suitable, and less racist, name is determined.

The Dixie Chicks, a country band from Texas has decided to change their name to The Chicks to avoid any connotation with slavery, as has Lady Antebellum who now just go by Lady A.

(Although they stole the name form a Black woman who has been using it for over 20 years.)

Keep Reading Show less