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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mental Health Crisis or Gun Control? Finding an answer to mass violence in America

Million-Dollar Question of the Day: What IS the answer to all these random acts of violence in America? Every other week it seems we hear about or see another incident on the news.. school shootings (& now stabbings!), Fort Hood shootings, wife drives car into church & then stabs husband because he's "worshipping Nascar." http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/tenn-woman-stabs-husband-worshipping-nascar-police-article-1.1724958




Has it occurred to anyone that maybe we need better mental health care? To me it seems like the obvious answer. More often than not it appears that there's a single common denominator in all these horrid incidents: these folks are cray cray! The persons involved may not have a history of violence but I believe it only takes one episode to say someone's experiencing psychosis. And, I'd prefer they never even get the chance. But, I'm not a doctor though.. so what do I know? Something else to consider is the ever-increasing population. Not just in the U.S. but all across the world.. numbers don't lie. The larger the population, the more incidents will occur.. no matter what kind of control or lack thereof we may have over weaponry.

Health professionals use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for a mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates about 3 in 100 persons are at risk of psychosis, "the experience of loss of contact with reality, and is not part of the person’s cultural group belief system or experience," (http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/First_Episode/About.htm) which typically includes hallucinations and/or delusions.

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks there might be an issue of mental illness here! Pittsburgh Rep. Tim Murphy, the only practicing clinical psychologist in Congress and author of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, states “These are sparks, but there’s usually a long fuse that goes with that,” speaking in regards to the 2 most recent incidents involving a Pennsylvania teen who went on a stabbing spree at his high school this week and the Fort Hood soldier who opened fire on his comrades last week (the 2nd Fort Hood soldier to do so in 4 years). These 2 recent occurrences appear to have finally opened up the possibility of legislation being passed in the U.S. ..and it's also a good sign for bipartisanship on mental health legislation. Murphy says, "There's no left or right on this issue," and he's not the only one.

Key provisions of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act "would increase the number of hospital beds available for crisis psychiatric care, improve access to mental health care for children and adolescents, authorize an assistant secretary of mental health at the Health and Human Services Department, and encourage states to adopt a 'need for treatment' standard for care, as opposed to the current requirement that a person must pose a danger to themselves or others before they can be committed." (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/12/the-house-s-gop-psychologist-may-finally-get-a-mental-health-bill-passed.html) Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy said, “I know from personal experience how hard it is for families to protect their loved ones from themselves,” who along with his siblings gained guardianship of his mother when she was unable to keep herself out of harm’s way.

And, maybe it's just me but it seems like we're hearing about these things WAY more often than we used to! I've often wondered if it was just that reports have increased due to all the gun control controversy or if these violent incidents are actually happening more often. The FBI reports a disturbing rise in the number of  “active shooter” incidents across America, according to Mark Greenblatt with Scripps News. Click this link for an interactive map showing active shooter incidents across the U.S: http://www.newsnet5.com/scripps-exclusive-fbi-active-shooter-search. Using information gathered by outside researchers, statistics show an average of 5 incidents per year from 2000-2008. However, Greenblatt reports from 2009 to the present, the number rose to an average of 15 per year. Dr. Peter Blair, an associate professor of criminal justice at Texas State University attributes much of the rise to events that might escape attention from other researchers. "Most of these are the much smaller events that end, fortunately, before a lot of people are killed," said Blair.

On that note, and I may be opening up a big fat can of worms here.. but for all those elated & thanking God that the Pennsylvania school attacker had knives instead of guns, if the adults at that school had been armed with guns I guarantee you he would've only gotten to a few victims rather than 20. Not trying to be a smart-ass or make light of this or any other horrific incident. It's always been my belief that guns, knives, and all other weapons don't kill people.. people kill people (& sometimes lions and tigers and bears, but that's a whole other afternoon of discussions). Just remember to keep 'em locked up tight and/or directly on your person to help avoid them getting into the wrong hands.

Anywho, in all seriousness.. combining crisis training for school/ government employees and law enforcement (for everyone really) with improvements in and better access to mental health care would appear to be a step in the right direction. Big government and healthcare legislation may not be the definitive answer to America's problems with violence.. but it's a damn good start in my book!

Photo credits: http://menshealthinitiative.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/the-truth-about-mental-illness-aubrey-sukowaski/; http://changementalhealthlawsinky.blogspot.com/2013/12/helping-families-in-mental-health.html; http://www.theurbanpolitico.com/2013/03/gun-control-and-gun-violence-in-america.html

2 comments:

  1. You know, it hasn't been that long ago that openness about mental health issues were more taboo. I tend to agree with you that mental health issues are more to blame than access to firearms. There are too many parents who have children with mental health issues and the system doesn't take care of them properly. You hear all the time about parents that try and get help for their relatives and they are treated for awhile and then released with no follow-up care. Then something terrible happens and it is too late. There should be better laws to protect innocent people. Children in particular are more at risk it seems from various lunatics, be it their parents who try to kill them or fellow classmates. Not long ago a mother drove her children into the ocean attempting to kill them. As I recall, shortly before she did this law enforcement stopped her after it was reported she might do them harm. She was let go and next thing we know on the news we see her driving their vehicle into the ocean trying to drown them. With all of the personal wealth in this country, it would seem there would be better mental health care for persons in need. On another note, It also seems there should be no hungry child in America.

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    1. Well said.. and a good start would be to add more qualified counselors in schools. I believe helping children out would build the best foundation for what's to come in this country. Thanks for the comment!

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