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Summer Scholars to Study Links Between Mental Health Burden and Violence


A team of summer scholars in residence will study mental health burden and the links between firearm and non-firearm violence. Ethan Rogers, assistant research scientist and postdoc fellow in the Crime and Justice Policy Research Program; and Andrew Krajewski, assistant professor from University of Texas at Dallas, will conduct the research. At the end of the project, they aim to submit a manuscript to one of the following journals: American Journal of Public Health, Criminology and Public Policy, or Journal of Behavioral Health. In addition to a presentation to the PPC, they also plan to present their findings at the 2021 Annual Meeting for the American Society of Criminology.

Gun violence in the United States is a major public health problem generating considerable debate about its causes and possible prevention strategies. Despite representing a small fraction of firearm homicides, high profile mass shootings tend to drive these policy discussions. In that lens, the role of mental health conditions is often proposed – leading many to conclude “solve the mental health crisis; solve the gun violence crisis.” Many researchers, however, have contested the link as a useful target for gun violence prevention, and have called for additional research. For this project, we propose assessing self-reported mental health disorders and clinical contact among adults recently incarcerated for lethal and non-lethal criminal violence and property crime. Further, we plan to examine if mental health symptoms predict key characteristics of violent crime incidents including the presence of firearms, the number of victims, and lethality. To complete this project, data will be derived from the 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates, and the 2004 National Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities (SISCF), and the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication. These datasets will allow for the comparisons of the mental health burden between various types of incarcerated individuals, as well as the general population. Specifically, we will examine differences in 1) recent mental health symptoms, 2) previous mental health diagnoses, and 3) previous mental health treatment. The project will include descriptive univariate and bivariate analyses, as well as logistic and multinomial logistic regression models for multivariate predictions. Preliminary analyses of the 2004 SISCF suggest that the prevalence of mental health symptoms does not differ greatly between those incarcerated for firearm homicides and non-firearm homicides. Our remaining objectives are to examine differences in the other measures of mental health burden, make comparisons to those incarcerated for other forms of violence, and conduct analyses using the other datasets.