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Panel examines the roots of gun violence

With the nation's worst mass shooting fresh in the the minds of many, local health officials are working to provide understanding on the relationship between gun violence and mental illness.

Erie County Mental Health Commissioner Michael Ranney was on a panel on gun violence and mental health, last night in St. Joseph University Parish Community Center. It's the latest session sponsored by the parish Gun Violence Awareness Subcommittee.

"Most violence that occurs is not by people with mental illness. In fact, only 4% of the violence that happens out there has been perpetrated by people with a mental illness," said Ranney, adding that individuals who "may just be angry" are committing many acts of violence.

"There's been many, many improvements over the years, particularly as it relates to medications, as it relates to treatment interventions," Ranney explained to the gathering. 

"But, we still have a long ways to go because the brain is a very complex organ. That's essentially what a mental health condition is. It's a disorder of the brain, just like substance abuse, addiction is a disease."

Ranney says there is a stigma to mental illness and often discrimination against mentally ill people. He says there may be more recognition of the twenty-percent of the population who have mental difficulties in the questionnaires in doctor's offices asking about difficulties.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.