Calling Mass Shootings Just A Mental Health Issue Increases Stigma

Author: URMND Contributor Gary Taylor, MSW

Another mass shooting has happened, and we continue in a revolving cycle of gun control debates, and mental health reform.

Gun control sparks controversy as proponents of guns, support the rhetoric of “guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

I see other comments such as this whole thing is a mental health issue and those who are unstable should not have access to guns. It seems that we are more likely to defend our constitutional right than human decency and morality. I believed that Sandy Hook would have been the shooting that would have made us all come together and enact change. Contrary to my belief, the same narrative continued. It was at that point, I knew if that would not change our way of thinking about guns than what would.

Fast track to Parkland, where another mass shooting has occurred, this time at a high school. Again, the same topic of debates continues this time with our kids pushing a march and town hall meeting with elected officials. As the Facebook government aficionados, you know those who know everything about government/politics (with no government or political experience), still point the blame on not enough mental health background checks.

This is very divisive and sets back the work of mental health advocates and agencies to reduce stigma. When you attach an already taboo subject such as mental health directly towards something as evil as mass shootings you automatically create a ripple effect. Now those who suffer from mental health issues or an illness will continue to be EVEN more fearful because they will more than likely be labeled in the same category as mass shooter. It makes people feel like they are “crazy”, instead of normalizing that we all suffer from mental health issues.

So just to clear the air up, and assure those who feel the need to deflect from the gun control debate and place the blame on mental health. Answer these questions first:
· Can you define mental health and mental illness? What is the difference?
· How would a more stringent mental health background check look?
· What makes you emotionally unstable?
· What factor will determine if someone diagnosed with a mental illness is fit to own a gun?
· Are people who just lost loved ones, going through a divorce, or just really stressed out deserve a right to own a gun?
· Did you know suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States?
· Did you know that of those suicide deaths more than 50% are by a firearm?

Mass shootings are primarily a gun control issue. Access to firearms in this country is easier than obtaining a mortgage, credit card, or buying a car. When speaking about gun control please do not place solely the blame on mental health because with the extremely stressful lives we live any of us has the capability to become a mass shooter. Being unstable could range from losing a loved one to having a mental illness or substance abuse disorder. None of these things are mutually exclusive. Although we need mental health reform, and it does play a component in the gun control debate; the main issue continues to be access to firearms, and that is the primary reason why gun control is such an important topic.

In regards to those who suffer in silence, please when speaking about mental health and mental health background checks, make sure you know the facts and not just a biased opinion looping all those who suffer from mental illness or mental health issues in one big category, because at the end of the day we technically all suffer from some form of mental health issues and can all become emotionally unstable at some point in our lives.


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