Tuesday, January 11, 2022
J. Thomas Sullivan (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences), Mass Shootings, Mental 'Illness,' and Tarasoff, 82 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 685 (2021):
The continuing public attention focused on acts of mass violence, including mass shootings, has understandably created significant concerns over the ability to protect individuals from death and injury attributable to these acts. At least two generalized explanations for this kind of violence have been put forward, based on the nature of the acts and apparent motivation of the perpetrators, who are often killed in the process by themselves or law enforcement officers. Many acts of mass violence are committed by individuals confirmed to be terrorists, acting with political or religious-political motivations. Others are assumed to be committed by individuals acting out of mental instability. For at least the latter, evidence of prior mental health problems or treatment affords support for the notion that mental health professionals may offer the potential for prevention in some cases or instances. While looking to the mental health professions for solutions to some cases of mass violence may seem logical and has resulted in legislative responses that recognize or create a duty for mental health professionals to warn or take other protective action to prevent injury to third persons, it is far from clear that this approach can be counted on to yield favorable results, and certainly not with respect to all, or even a majority of episodes of mass violence.