NY Times article looks at School of Medicine alumnus’ research on gun violence and the mentally ill

Jonathan Metzl, M.D., ’90
Jonathan Metzl, M.D., ’90

An article exploring mental health and gun violence written by School of Medicine alumnus Jonathan Metzl, M.D., ’90, and published in the Dec. 12 issue of the American Journal of Public Health is also the focus of a recent New York Times story.

Metzl is Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Psychiatry and the Director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. He is also a frequent commentator for MSNBC.

Metzl and co-author Kenneth MacLeish, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Medicine, Health and Society and Anthropology, explored in their research article a number of ideas about the relationship between mental illness and gun violence including that psychiatric diagnosis could predict gun crimes before they occur. The article concludes that the connections between mental illness and gun violence are less casual and also more complex than public opinion suggests. It states that “focusing legislative policy and popular discourse so centrally on mental illness is rife with potential problems” if not included as part of larger societal strategies and interventions.

The Times opinion article focuses on Metzl and his journal article in light of U.S. Representative Tim Murphy, of Pennsylvania, recently calling for federal legislation that he says he believes would help stop those who are mentally ill from becoming violent. The Times article states that Metzl believes mental health providers should be included in the discussion about guns and violence but that they should not be responsible for “telling authorities which of their patients will become violent.”