NYAPRS Releases Statement in Response to Parkland, Florida Tragedy

NYAPRS Note: The NYAPRS Board of Directors has issued the following statement in respond to the horrific student killings at Parkland Florida. It will be read at today’s NYAPRS Legislative Day in Albany and distributed thereafter. 


NYAPRS Releases Statement in Response to Parkland, Florida Tragedy

February 25, 2018    Albany, New York
Contact: Harvey Rosenthal, 518-527-0564

The New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, a statewide coalition of people with serious mental health conditions and community service providers released the following statement today. 

We are joined by people with mental health conditions, their families, community mental health professionals and advocacy groups across the nation in reaching out to share the grief of the families and individuals affected by the tragedy in Parkland, Florida. 

We agree with our colleagues at the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy in recognizing that “when tragedies occur, it is human nature to seek meaning in an attempt to avoid such tragedies in the future. But attempts to make the Parkland massacre about mental health conditions are misguided and distracting talking points designed to create the false appearance of predictability.”

The science is clear that a psychiatric diagnosis is not a reliable predictor for gun violence. Instead, the research has concluded that:

  • “The main risk factors for violence still remain being young, male, single or of lower socio-economic status.”[1] 
  • Mass murderers “have more mundane motivations: revenge, money, power, a sense of loyalty, and a desire to foment terror.”[2]
  • Even if all potential mass shooters could somehow be identified and subjected to psychiatric treatment, “there is no known cure for angry young men who harbor violent fantasies.”[3] 
  • People with mental health conditions are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators.[4]

“Any responses to this tragedy that ignore the real causes of such violence will instead demonize people who have a mental health condition, without actually lessening the level of risk,” said Brian Hollander, NYAPRS co-President. 

“We join with the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in condemning the responses of some politicians, advocates, and journalists who are conflating a mental health diagnosis, or the perception of one, with a propensity for violence,” said Harvey Rosenthal, NYAPRS executive director and a Bazelon Center trustee. 

“False and harmful claims and attacks on mental health conditions not only fail to address the primary issue, they further discrimination against individuals with mental health conditions,” he said. 

NYAPRS places responsibility for the murders in Parkland on the shooter himself, and on the easy access to deadly weapons of war. 

Accordingly, we support the joint recommendations of the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians and American Psychiatric Association in recommending the President and the United States Congress help prevent gun violence in the following ways:

  • Label this violence caused by the use of guns a national public health epidemic.
  • Fund appropriate research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the FY 2018 omnibus spending package.
  • Establish constitutionally appropriate restrictions on the manufacturing and sale, for civilian use, of large-capacity magazines and firearms with features designed to increase their rapid and extended killing capacity.

“NYAPRS stands with those who want answers and effective policy solutions in the face of such frequent, senseless, and horrific violence,” said Carla Rabinowitz, NYAPRS Public Policy Co-Chair. 

“And NYAPRS stands with the young people of Parkland who demand better answers for safe schools,” said Douglas Hovey, NYAPRS Past-President. 

  1. Violence and mental illness: an overview Stuart; World Psychiatry. 2003 Jun; 2(2): 121–124. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1525086/ 
  2. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/10/why-better-mental-health-care-wont-stop-mass-shootings/541965/ 
  3. The Mental Health System Can’t Stop Mass Shooters,” Amy Barnhorst, New York Times, February 20, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/20/opinion/mental-health-stopping-mass-shooters.html
  4. Crime Victimization in Adults With Severe Mental Illness Comparison With the National Crime Victimization Survey Teplin et al; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1389236/

The New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services represents a  statewide partnership of thousands of New Yorkers who use and/or provide community mental health services
who are dedicated to improving services, social conditions and public policies for people with psychiatric disabilities by promoting their recovery, rehabilitation, rights and full community inclusion