Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gun control and mental health

I've purposely waited for the NRA to make their public statement before expressing my views regarding gun control, as well as how it should relate to mental health. Now that they've held a press-conference (however terrifying), I'm weighing in. 

The idea that every person treated and/or medicated for any type of mental illness should be entered into a national database is deplorable and disgusting. One in four American adults experience a mental health problem in any given year, yet the U.S. Surgeon General determined over a decade ago that 'the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small.' (NAMI, 2012). This ranges from a woman suffering from post-partum depression to a soldier experiencing anxiety after returning home from war to individuals who suffer from chronic mental illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Are all of the illnesses of the same caliber? Should all of these individuals be labeled for the rest of their lives? Who gets to determine how severe the illness must be for an individual not to receive a gun permit? Is everyone who makes a poor decision with a gun mentally ill or is every mentally ill person going to shoot people?

In my third trimester of pregnancy, I began to experience overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks due to the extreme changes in hormones and brain chemistry caused by creating a new life. Once K was born, these feelings further intensified and remained until I finished nursing her. This information is in my permanent medical history. Should I not be allowed to own a gun  because of anxiety six years in my past? Better yet, my husband has bipolar disorder. Should I be denied a gun permit because we live in the same household?

David believes that it's not in his best interest to own a gun, due to his depressive and suicidal tendencies. This is a decision he has made to keep himself safe. He receives consistent care from his psychologist and psychiatrist. If they were of the belief that he was a threat to others, then I believe they are in a position professionally and ethically to weigh in on the matter. But the NRA, who has never met David and has no idea how his illness effects him with regard to violent tendencies, does not have that right. Nor should they. 

I do not own a gun. I am not, however against them for personal protection, hunting, and yes, recreational purposes. I do believe there is a line, though. Does anyone need a fully automatic assault rifle for any of the uses stated above? No. Will a person who truly wants one get one legally or illegally? Maybe, but not always likely. In many instances in which guns are the weapons used to cause devastation (e.g., Sandy Hook, Columbine, etc.) these weapons were obtained legally. Whether or not the incidents would have occurred if these individuals had a more difficult time obtaining the weapons is truly an unknown variable. 

Irregardless, blanketing the entire segment of society who have been treated for a mental illness at some point in their lives is not the answer. Doing such will only lead to fewer people reaching out and receiving the help they need in fear of being permanently labeled. The stigma associated with mental illness will grow, not decline as so many have been striving towards for years. 

I am appalled by the recent statement by the NRA. Yet another strike against those trying to lead normal lives.