Mental Illness: America’s Own Lethal Weapon

Policeman's hand on gun

All together, in 2015, more than 950 people in total have died by either the hands of police or police gunfire as a whole.  For a country that prides itself on internal safety, that’s allot.

Of those 950, roughly 32 were black and unarmed.  Race, although typically and largely a factor in a large portion of police killings — there’s another factor in police killings that is often ignored entirely.

A new study released last week by a Virginia non-profit organization brought up an interesting piece of information making the case for more research and discussion into mental health. According to the study, people with “untreated mental illness” are roughly 16 times more likely to die at the hands of police rather than those generally without.

A likely (or at least one of the causes to such a wide range of shootings) could particularly be the fact that most police officers lack the sensitivity training and required training as a whole to deal with mentally ill Americans. A report published by the Washington Post earlier this year, signified such a claim, noting that of all calls to police “mentally ill” people make up 10% of all calls for police services.

But often, officers are unsure how to approach the situation.

A second big reason that mentally ill individuals often are “mistreated” and sometimes die in the hands of police, likely, because of their own mental illness. Mentally ill individuals are much more likely to come into contact with authority figures, than say, someone who doesn’t particularly have a severe illness.

Although those with “severe illnesses” account for a small percentage of the general American population, it, still levies attention towards the fact that mental illness in America is largely unkempt and ignored.

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This article was penned by Mohammed SHK.  To contact SHK, e-mail

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