Georgetown Psychiatrist Comments on Mental Health Portion of President’s Gun Violence Plan

Posted in News Release

WASHINGTON — Today, President Barack Obama outlined his four-part plan to reduce gun violence.  The final part of the plan calls for increased access to, and health insurance coverage for, mental health services.

“Though the vast majority of Americans with a mental illness are not violent, we need to do more to identify mental health issues early and help individuals get the treatment they need before dangerous situations develop,” reads the press release issued today by the White House.

Forensic psychiatrist Liza Gold, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center, says the elements of the President’s proposal that address mental illness should move forward with or without the other parts of the plan.

“Mental health providers have long recognized a great need for broader access to mental health care services,” Gold says.  “It is not just a question of mental illness and violence. In fact, most gun violence is not associated with mental illness, and gun violence associated with mental illness overwhelmingly involves suicide rather than homicide.”

Gold says she was “pleased” to see that the President’s plan does not stigmatize the mentally ill, but rather addresses issues related to “dangerousness,” without specifying the reasons that a person might be dangerous.

Gold says the President’s proposal related to mental health is an important first step in improving resources and access to mental health care. “We all understand that not every aspect of any proposed plan of action will become a reality,” says Gold, “but even if some of the President’s plan regarding mental health is put in place, we could potentially help many people get needed treatment and reduce the risk of both suicidal and homicidal violence in those with mental disorders.”

Gold says the President’s measures potentially could make a difference in reducing violence against others, but feels they have not gone far enough to address problems with the mental health care system.

“Mental health care needs to become a social priority,” she says. “I believe that the recommendation made by the American Psychiatric Association to Vice-President Biden that calls for a ‘Presidential Commission to Develop a Vision for a System of Mental Health Care’ should be seriously considered. As has been pointed out, the lack of a coherent mental health system has resulted in many patients, including some who do become violent, falling through the cracks. I’m disappointed the President did not adopt this suggestion, as such a commission would be able to take a broad look at and address all the issues relevant to mental health care delivery, including resources, access, stigma, violence, and mental health law.”

Gold is available for an interview by contacting Karen Mallet (

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis — or “care of the whole person.” The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO), which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical Translation and Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.