President Trump says he wants to reopen mental institutions as a way to address mass shootings, an idea he pushed twice Thursday and has floated before.
The president’s insistence that mental illness is the cause of mass shootings has disconcerted mental health professionals who insist that most people with mental illness are nonviolent. These experts also say people afflicted with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrator, and fear the president’s language only further stigmatizes those struggling with mental health issues.
“I do want people to remember the words ‘mental illness,'” the president told reporters on his way to a rally in New Hampshire Thursday afternoon, responding to a question about gun control.
“These people are mentally ill and nobody talks about that. But these are mentally ill people, and people have to start thinking about it. I think we have to start building institutions again because, you know, if you look at the ’60s and ’70s, so many of these institutions were closed…But a lot of our conversation has to do with the fact that we have to open up institutions. We can’t let these people be on the streets.”
The president reiterated that thought at his rally hours later, insisting the U.S. “will be taking mentally deranged and dangerous people off of the streets.” He didn’t say exactly how that might happen.
Trump also floated opening new psychological institutions last year after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. At the time, the idea went nowhere.
Although psychiatric hospitals still exist in the U.S., their numbers have declined precipitously in recent decades. This is do to a combination of factors, including laws that made it harder for the government to involuntarily commit people in many jurisdictions, as well as budget cuts at the state and local level.