Mental health and violent crime: what experts say about the link

The economy appears to be fading more than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic. Those could be two contributing factors leading to shorter tempers and more violent crime.

Mental health is in need of attention and it's never more evident than right now. Just before noon on Thursday, Detroit Police were handling another deadly shooting in Detroit after two men got into an argument.

While Detroit Police did not say what the argument was about, it's not the first time we’ve seen something small quickly erupt into violence. In less than a month, we’ve seen a beef over a parking space lead to eight people shot, a murder and standoff that started over barbecue chicken, and a man appear to set a gas station on fire because of a bad tasting cigar.

The last two crimes happened this week.

Aisha Cunningham is a licensed therapist and told FOX 2 she believes there to be more and more of this kind of violence happening over the past 2 to 3 years.

"From what I’ve seen, and what I’ve noticed it does seem as though there are heightened issues such as this," she said.

Cunningham said people can be set off easily for a variety of reasons.

"When you are left alone with your thoughts, you’re used to be able to go to work or do something that takes up your time, you don’t have a lot of time to think, then you’re not really bothered by a lot," she said.

Cunningham said rising prices caused by inflation combined with the lingering impact from the pandemic are a big part of this. Mental health emergencies have climbed during the pandemic and so has violence.

A study from the University of California-Davis shows during the first five months of the pandemic, gun violence, homicide, and aggravated assault jumped in 13 major American cities — including Detroit — compared to 2018 and 2019. Most of those crimes occurred in lower-income neighborhoods.

While there isn’t a documented link between recent mental health emergencies and violent crime, Cunningham says, lately, more people are recognizing the need for mental health and breaking away from a crippling stigma.

"We all need outlets. We just all need spaces to talk through our own thoughts. Because if I’m rehearsing irrational thoughts all day, I’m going to act irrationally, she said. "We definitely talk through the roots of issues. Some things, a lot of things, stem from our childhood."