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shrinkykitten

"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.

4.22.2007

Ich bin ein mental defective

I have absolutely no desire to own a gun. None whatsoever. However, this discussion in the news about Cho's mental health issues and being able to purchase a gun is starting to scare the bejeezus out of me.

The discussion is centering on making mental health records more easily available to gun sellers, but also to police and it has even been suggested that simply seeking outpatient treatment counts as "involuntary commitment."

That is, currently the laws deny guns to those who have been involuntarily committed or have been adjudicated as "mentally defective" (what a horrible, horrible, term) by a court. What exactly causes one to be considered a "mental defective" is unclear to me, however it seems to be related to being considered a threat to onself (as in related to suicidal ideation) or others, or as someone who cannot "manage affairs" (whatever that means). But, my concern is that this could widen, or be interpreted more broadly to include people who have been diagnosed with depression or other disorders.

It has been suggested that there be some sort of database like the one for sex offenders. What? So if treatment is sought, one might find themselves on some kind of on-line database for "mental defectives"? Would college counseling centers be forced to report anyone who seeks treatment (currently that is suposed to be very very private so that the schools and parents can't find out, in order to protect the student).

And let's say the purpose is to *solely* make this list available to gunshops - if it is on-line, you can bet others will be able to access it. Mental health is supposed to be extremely private as it can be used to stigmatize and to deny services or jobs, etc.

I worry that rather than increasing empathy for mental health issues, we may instead see a backlash that will take away rights. People are scared - and they think that this can be prevented and that denying guns right and forcing treatment or hospitalization can do just that. The problem is that this could take away people's civil liberties. If I am depressed, don't I have the right to refuse treatment? If I do seek treatment, and am no longer depressed, would my name still be in some mental defect database?

We need, instead, to destigmatize mental health treatment, make more types of options available, and make them more affordable, if not free.

2 Comments:

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Seeking Solace said...

I agree with your assessment that the focus should be on mental health treatment instead of the pro-anti gun battle. It is scary to think that one could be on a list simply because they had the courage to see help for a problem.

It just goes back to how we view persons with mental health problems. We think that they are "crazy" or "insane". Yet, if one did an annonymous survey and asked how many people have sought treatment, either in or out patient or how many people take perscription medication for mental illness, I would bet my life savings that the number would be almost 3/4 of those who answer. People need to give this issue the serious attention it deserves!

 
At 6:03 PM, Blogger shrinkykitten said...

I don't know that I would say MH tx issues should trump gun issues - I would love to see us really reduce the number of guns and places to get guns, and am definitely for gun control.

But definitely I agree about the likely astounding nummbers of people who have received some sort of mental health treatment. And on the one hand, how liberating would it be if all those people *were* listed somewhere? The sheer numbers and diversity of that group would be amazing. But, it is a slippery slope and would ultimately be used to malintents, and not a good thing.

I read that currently 80,000 people in Virginia (1% of the total population of virginia) are in the system as being unable to buy weapons. That's actually a pretty significant number! And it way underestimates the number of people with mental health issues.

 

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