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Kenneth Cole Billboard Slammed by Psychiatric Association Over Gun Control Message

Fashion designer Kenneth Cole's highly visible stand on the gun control debate is rankling a psychiatric group in the process.

A billboard from Cole above the busy West Side Highway in New York City reads: “Over 40M Americans suffer from mental illness. Some can access care… All can access guns.” The message includes two hashtags: #GunReform and #AreYouPuttingUsOn.

But the American Psychiatric Association disapproves of the billboard's suggested correlation between mental illness and gun violence, and wants the message taken down.

Cole "is correct. There are over 40 million people that suffer from mental illness," Dr. Renee Binder, the association's president, told NBC News about the organization’s campaign.

But, she continued, there isn’t a direct link between those who commit violent acts with firearms and have a mental illness.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found that only 3 percent to 5 percent of violent acts are linked to individuals with serious mental illnesses. Even more alarming, Binder said, people with severe mental illnesses are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime.

Related: Power and pitfalls of social media: Kenneth Cole

The APA wants the billboard's message cast in a more favorable light. With only 38 percent of adults in the U.S. diagnosed with a mental illness receiving the necessary treatment, Binder said, a positive message could reduce the negative stigmas attached to the issue, which often keeps people needing services from seeking assistance.

Cole tweeted last week in response to some of the reaction from mental health advocates that the ad is "not meant to further stigmatize those suffering from mental illness ... ."

Representatives for Cole did not immediately comment.

This isn’t the first time that Cole has taken to social media about gun control. In April 2013, he tweeted:

The designer is no stranger to backlash about his cheeky messaging on sensitive topics. In 2013, when the U.S. was about to put boots on the ground in Syria, Cole tweeted: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online ... ."

The company later apologized.