Speaker provides tips on how psychiatrists can address gun violence risk among patients
Muhammad Hassan Majeed, MD, a psychiatrist at Natchaug Hospital, Mansfield Center, in Connecticut, provided an overview of how psychiatrists can address gun violence at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting.
“I want to be very clear that I’m talking about a marginal subset of the population that is at higher risk for committing violence, approximately 4% of the total population,” Majeed said. “These individuals may have a prior history of violence, antisocial traits, paranoia, disorganized behavior, impulsivity or substance use disorder.”
According to Majeed, it can be helpful to hospitalize, for a short time, individuals who are acutely unwell, such as those with paranoid delusions, disorganized behavior or irrational thoughts. Psychiatrists should also not hesitate to involve family or other community stakeholders, such as teachers, social workers or law enforcement. Further, it is important that they educate patients on the importance of gun safety, particularly for individuals with children in the household, via methods like locking guns in a lockbox or using trigger guards. Majeed referenced a 2019 study that found safe storage of guns may help prevent up to 32% of gun deaths.
Resources available to psychiatrists related to gun safety include the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine and an online course on the reduction of gun violence offered through Johns Hopkins University.
Majeed noted that gun violence is a complex issue that happens in a social context, and although mental health is often the focal point regarding the blame for gun violence, placing such an emphasis on mental health alone will do little to eliminate this violence.
“We need a broad-based coalition with media, law enforcement agencies and private-public nonprofit organizations,” Majeed said.
Majeed MH, et al. Why blaming violence on mental illness is misleading: A call for multifaceted and evidence-based strategies to reduce gun violence. Presented at: American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting; May 1-3, 2021 (virtual meeting).