Confirming similar studies that have found that mental health problems are not correlated with violence, a new National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) paper concludes that there is no statistical link between violent crime and people who suffered from depression as teenagers.
While opponents of gun violence legislation have tried to shift the gun violence prevention debate to focus on the mentally ill, the reality is that the victims of mental illness-related violence tend to be the patients themselves. And depression specifically is one of the most widespread mental health concerns in the world. As the report states, “depression is the leading cause of disability and the fourth leading contributor to the global burden of disease,” and mental illnesses is prevalent among young Americans, with “8.1 percent of 2 million adolescents aged 12-17 experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2009.”
Although the NBER report found “little evidence that adolescent depression influences the likelihood of engaging in violent crime or the selling of illicit drugs,” it did conclude that such depression was a significant predictor for future property crimes, costing hundreds of millions of dollars per year in damages and underscoring the economic costs that exacerbate the social costs of mental illness on the public.
That makes early detection efforts and community support systems geared towards addressing mental health in children vital to public health and preventing certain future crimes — and some lawmakers are taking action to do just that. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) recently introduced the Mental Health In Schools Act in an effort to “allow schools to collaborate with mental health providers, law enforcement, and other community-based organizations to provide expanded access to mental health care for their students” and “support schools in training staff and volunteers to spot warning signs in kids and to refer them to the appropriate services.”