Mental health advocates raise concerns over tightened Red Flag law

In response to recent mass shootings, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed comprehensive gun reform bills into law Monday, toughening New York’s gun laws.

The new legislation also strengthens the Red Flag laws by expanding the list of people who can file for extreme risk protection orders. The orders can lead to gun confiscations.

The list now includes mental health providers.

Mental health advocates worry it will have a chilling effect on people seeking professional help. They say conflating mental illness with violence only furthers the stigma around getting professional help.

Glenn Liebman with the Mental Health Association of New York State says too often, we confuse mental illness and violence. He worries we are criminalizing mental health, with the threat that people seeking treatment could be flagged as violent. He says there are far better predictors of violence.

"If you look at some of the other risk factors, they’re so much more significant than a mental health diagnosis. If you look at things like history of trauma, history of violence, domestic abuse, history of guns, if you look at those things, those are much more significant factors, in terms of somebody doing something violent than a mental health diagnosis," Liebman said.

He says it’s easy to write perpetrators off as mentally ill, when the research shows it’s more complicated than that.

Research from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing shows people with mental illness account for just 4% of perpetrators of violent crimes committed in the U.S.

"When we’re talking about stigma, we’re talking about people feeling like they’re, like they shouldn’t seek services because they don’t want to be equated with somebody who does something like this. The fear is that, if somehow I come out and talk about my mental health issues, then I’m going to be equated with somebody who’s violent," Liebman said.