With the tragic shootings today in Roseburg, Oregon on the campus of Umpqua Community College, discussions in the media have already started to focus on common themes in the wake of mass shootings in America: gun control, the motivations of the shooter, whether or not the shooter was suffering from mental illness. Oregon psychiatrist Dr. Dan Bristow says that focusing on healing and supporting those
affected should be the primary concern. Bristow is the chairperson for the Public Information and Education Committee for the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association.
“The idea that anyone who commits an atrocity has to be mentally ill is simply inaccurate,” says Bristow. “The vast majority of any violent crime is criminal behavior where the person who commits the violence understands that the act is wrong and commits the act anyway.”
Bristow says that mental illness is rarely the cause of violent crime. “We don’t know the motivation of the shooter but to automatically label him as mentally ill can be damaging to anyone dealing with a mental illness.” Stigma against those with a mental illness remains a barrier in people seeking treatment who might be helped by it.
Bristow add, “It’s unethical to speculate as to the cause of this tragedy when we should be focusing on helping our fellow Oregonians grieve and heal. This is a time to support (and be supported by) the
ones we love: friends, family, neighbors, and fellow Oregonians.”
For more information, contact:
Dan Bristow, M.D.
Chairman, Public Information and Education Committee
Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association