The Potential Connection Between Mass Shooters and Untreated Mental Illnesses

By LateToTheParty | Late to the Pol | 14 Jun 2021


Mass shootings are extremely tragic. Innocent people get harmed and killed for no good reason, and their families are left to mourn their loved ones. If they are fortunate enough, they can seek and get justice against the perpetrator(s) in court.

Of course, that will never heal the scars and damage done. The best remedy is to preemptively address the root cause of the problem before it even manifests. However, there are vehement disagreements among politicians and the citizenry. Some argue that more gun control will solve the issue. Some argue that arming law-abiding citizens will reduce mass shootings or at least, mitigate the severity of them.

Personally, I am of the belief that more gun control will not solve the problem. In this old article of mine, I talked about how (1) criminals don't give a rat's ass about gun laws, (2) some mass shootings were actually preventable and law enforcement did not take the tips seriously enough, and (3) enforcement of existing laws is inconsistent such as when Hunter Biden lied on his background check (and not received consequences).

Whether you agree or disagree with my assessment, I think we can all agree that if we can understand the mind of the average mass shooter, we can use that knowledge to our advantage to be one step ahead. In fact, this peer-reviewed study by Dr. Ira Glick et al. from the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology may give us a clue.

The Study

Glick et al. (2021) aimed to analyze the mental health and treatment backgrounds of past mass shooters. They used the Mother Jones database of 115 persons identified as a mass shooter in the US between January 1982 to September 2019. The study primarily focused on the 35 people who survived and for which legal proceedings were instituted as they contained the most reliable psychiatric information.

The study gathered data through various means including interviewing forensic psychiatrists, collecting testimonies & reports of forensic psychiatrists, collecting information from court proceedings & public records, watching interviews of the assailants by law enforcement, and reading social media postings plus other writings of mass shooters. Once the scientists gathered all the qualitative data, they made a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, diagnosis and completed a Sheehan Diagnostic Scale.

In addition, the study randomly selected 20 assailants from the 80 mass shooters who died at the crime to determine if there were any differences in psychiatric diagnoses and treatment between them and those who survived.

The Results

Of the 35 surviving assailants, 18 were diagnosed with schizophrenia, 10 had other diagnoses, 3 had unknown diagnoses, and 4 had no diagnosis. In general, 28 of the 35 assailants had a known diagnosis of a mental illness.

The 18 schizophrenic surviving assailants tend to have multiple symptoms including delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, other negative symptoms, and continuous overall low functioning level. 16 of the 18 had at least 3 symptoms with the other two suffering from 2 symptoms.

Of the 10 people who had other diagnoses, 3 had bipolar I disorders, 2 had delusional disorders (persecutory type), 2 had personality disorders (1 paranoid and 1 borderline disorder), 2 had substance-related (1 alcohol-related and 1 multiple substance–related) disorders, and 1 had posttraumatic stress disorder. 

Among the 20 randomly sampled mass shooters who died at the crime scene, 8 had schizophrenia, 7 had other diagnoses, and 5 had unknown diagnoses. However, among the "others", the study could not pinpoint the specific mental illness.

Whether the assailants survived or not, none of them received medical treatment prior to perpetrating their crimes.



Closing Thoughts

There are some obvious limitations for this study. Firstly, the sample size is on the small side. Secondly, there was no control group for the study to compare the results to. The potential effects from other variables such as age, cultural background, and location need to be looked into, as well.

That said, the study did yield some very definitive results. 88.6% of the surviving assailants suffered from some sort of mental illness and among the random sample of the assailants who died at the crime, 100% of them had some sort of mental illness. In addition, none of the mass shooters, both those who survived or died, received medical treatment for their mental illnesses.

The study cites two other papers that found that people who are appropriately diagnosed and treated do not act more violent and commit crimes more frequently than the rest of the population. Proper medical adherence is also a strong predictor for less violence.

This is not to say that if we preemptively and properly treat people's mental disorders, the mass shooting problem will be completely solved. However, I would assume that it will substantially reduce the frequency of mass shootings and the number of victims. And if we also address the other problems that I mentioned back in the introduction, then we will see even better results.

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Agnostic classical liberal & fiscal conservative who likes anime, JRPGs, and Linux. You can also follow me on,,, and

Late to the Pol
Late to the Pol

My political commentary and opinions are all found here. May or may not involve falling up the stairs, falling off a stationary bike, or shaking hands with ghosts.

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