News Reality

We Can Stop Gun Violence Without Blaming People Living With Mental Illness

by www.huffingtonpost.com

A lot can change in five years. If you had asked me five years ago how we should approach the intersection of guns and mental illness, I would have said the two should never mix. I would have said all people with mental illness should be prohibited from possessing firearms. I would have used the term “dangerously mentally ill” without thinking twice.

Then, in 2013 – more than 20 years into my career – my perspective changed. In the wake of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I convened a meeting to tackle a complicated question: What does research actually tell us about the intersection of mental illness and gun violence? Those who attended the meeting established the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm policy – a group of researchers and practitioners dedicated to developing evidence-informed policy proposals. And much of what I thought I knew about mental illness turned out to be wrong.

The researchers I work with have taught me about the actual risks of violence among those living with mental illness – specifically the lack thereof. I’ve learned that those with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. I’ve learned that only four percent of interpersonal violence is attributable to mental illness alone. I’ve learned that those living with mental illness pose a greater threat to themselves than anyone else. I’ve realized that the gun violence prevention movement focuses less on preventing suicides – nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths – than we should. And I now have a far better understanding of the discrimination, stigmatization, and even violence that people living with mental illness face. Moreover, I have come to appreciate that mental illness is part of a person in the same way that race and national origin are; diagnoses do not define individuals, but mental illness is not a choice. We can’t choose where we come from, we can’t choose what we look like, and we can’t choose whether or not to have a mental illness.

Nearly 20 percent of Americans live with a mental illness in a given year – these individuals comprise one of our nation’s largest demographics. Once you begin to view mental illness the same way you view other immutable characteristics, the daily discrimination against those who suffer becomes apparent and painful. The language you hear your friends using becomes painful. The message you hear from the press, leaders, and the public becomes painful. The things you have said in the past become painful. You are forced to confront your own biases and those of people you respect. It is uncomfortable.

The laws we support should be based on research and focused on dangerous behavior – not genetics, not diagnoses.

I have felt this discomfort listening to the recent public debate about the Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that prohibited those with a mental health disability and an appointed representative payee from purchasing or possessing firearms. The policy, which Congress recently voted to repeal, was the Obama administration’s effort to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. President Obama deserves a lot of credit for doing everything in his power to reduce America’s gun violence epidemic. Unfortunately, by focusing the prohibition directly on a mental health disability, the rule furthered the mistaken belief that mental illness is a major cause of violence.

Research shows that mental illness alone is not a significant risk factor for interpersonal violence, and an appointed representative payee tells us nothing about additional risk of violence. Rather than focusing on mental illness, we should be looking at evidence-based risk factors for dangerousness, such as a history of violence or substance abuse.

The terms we hear from people on both sides of the aisle, such as “the dangerously mentally ill,” are misleading, damaging to the mental health community, and not based on evidence. The gun lobby, politicians, and the ill-informed media have conditioned us to associate mental illness with violence. The idea that mentally ill means violent is an alternative fact. Period.

Luckily, there are policies that can prevent dangerous people from possessing firearms without further stigmatizing those who live with mental illness. One such policy is the Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO), which is currently in effect in California. The GVRO allows family members and/or law enforcement officials to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from an individual in crisis. The policy is effective because it is based on behavioral risk factors for dangerousness rather than a mental health diagnosis alone. The policy gives loved ones the tools to protect individuals in crisis – concerned relatives can get help for a family member they know to be suicidal, a loved one who is having thoughts of harming others, a family member whose erratic behavior, violence, and co-occurring substance abuse suggest additional violence is imminent.

This policy was carefully crafted based on what the facts tell us about risk of violence; legislators who are serious about preventing gun violence should use this lifesaving, data-driven tool as an example. Washington state recently passed a law modeled after the GVRO, and other states are considering similar legislation.

Unsurprisingly, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and those legislators who pledged fealty to them also found the SSA law troubling – they find any regulations troubling. And they supported this repeal for one irresponsible reason: they want everyone to be armed, no matter who they are, what their behavior demonstrates, where they are carrying, or how they obtain their weapons. The NRA does not care whatsoever about stigmatizing those with mental illness. If they were serious about addressing the shortfalls of the SSA rule, they would have simply passed a law repealing the policy. Instead, they utilized the Congressional Review Act (CRA) – a sledgehammer of a process that has only been successfully used once in congressional history – to prevent re-visitation of this issue in the future.

The NRA does not care whatsoever about stigmatizing those with mental illness.

The NRA and their congressional allies have no problem exploiting those with mental illness – they frequently blame these individuals when a horrific tragedy occurs. Officials at NRA headquarters have no interest in creating policies to identify individuals who are actually dangerous. They simply want guns in every household, in every school, in every public place. That they suddenly claim to care about stigma and scientific evidence is disingenuous and insulting, and we should remind them of their commitment to data-driven policy next time they oppose commonsense laws like domestic violence prohibitions or the GVRO.

I have worked in gun violence prevention for nearly 28 years and am well acquainted with the public health risks of easy access to firearms. I came to this issue because a close friend battling depression took her own life with a firearm. I have counseled and consoled grieving mothers, fathers, and other family members in their darkest hours. Several of my closest friends are survivors of gun violence. I have seen firsthand the devastation gun violence causes, and I understand the desire to do whatever it takes to stop the killings we see every day. But we need to create effective, data-driven laws that don’t use mental illness as a scapegoat.

We have seen such compassion, such leadership, such energy from citizens of all backgrounds who oppose President Trump’s immoral immigration ban. We recognize that discriminating on the basis of religion or national origin is wrong. We must treat mental illness the same way.

Prohibitions on gun ownership are critically important. The United States’ gun laws include far too many loopholes that allow dangerous people to do harm. But the laws we support should be based on research and focused on dangerous behavior – not genetics, not diagnoses. If we want our movement to succeed, a data-driven strategy is the only way forward.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


Read Full Article On www.huffingtonpost.com
Latest
What you need to know about the opioid antidote.
Drug overdose deaths have nearly tripled in the United States since 1999, with white and middle-aged Americans bearing much of the brunt, a new report shows.
Male stroke patients are more than twice as likely as females to get clot-busting stroke treatment within 30 minutes of hospital arrival, a new study reports.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website, Goop, has enviable fashion, travel and home design spreads. But when it comes to health and wellness, the site sometimes goes off the deep end.  Most r
The drug now accounts for a quarter of overdose deaths, according to the new CDC data, which offer a glimpse into the scale of America's current addiction epidemic.
Alex Goodwin, from Rugby, England, was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma last year after months of agony in his joints and muscles. He is mid treatment in Kansas - but may be forced home.
Parents and doctors have a host of concerns about the procedure, but some are wondering if teenage patients are waiting too long for what may be their best option.
function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commer
Have you ever convinced yourself that you’re going to get fired because you think you don’t deserve to be in your job? “The only reason I got this gig is because I got lucky,”
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A majority of Americans say it is important to keep federal funding for an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor under Obamacare, even as Republicans work on repealing
Researchers have found that older adults with higher levels of physical activity have pain modulation patterns that may protect them from chronic pain.
function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commer
Chemotherapy can make paitents sensitive for weeks on end. But experts from the University of Iowa claim it can be stopped by taking a nicotinamide riboside supplement - found in beer and milk.
NHS guidelines says GPs should refer any overweight patient to weight-loss classes. But research, by Pulse magazine, suggests many patients become offended if the topic is raised.
Since the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, health premium increases have slowed for all employers, big and small.
Scientists have generated a new plasmid-based reverse genetics system for rotaviruses.
Great Hammerhead sharks have been tagged and tracked across the USA and Bahamas in a bid to shed light on their migration habits. Researchers suggest that these sharks are more at risk than previously
Several newly discovered variants of a gene increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders. A research team aims to derive new therapies from this finding which are better tailored to the individua
Just like real doctors and nurses, online health tools with good -- but controlled -- communication skills can promote healthier lifestyles, according to researchers. However, if their tone is convers
Researchers generated a flavor lexicon that lists the 39 flavor attributes in cheeses made with goat milk. Flavor lexicons are important tools for cheesemakers because they help with development, prod
Research outlines how the genetic pathways that govern growth and stress response in plants sometimes clash. The research could lead to better performing crop varieties.
£41m plans to increase GP access are approved by the board running Greater Manchester's NHS budget.
Using mice, University of North Carolina researchers found the loss of collateral vessels in old age is prevented by exercise. This can reduce the severity of a potentially deadly stroke, they say.
Researchers in Norway have found no significant negative psychological impacts on children born to mothers with prenatal or postpartum depression.
Researchers in Germany have identified four variants of the glycine receptor B gene as risk factors for anxiety and panic disorders.
(Reuters) - Cempra Inc said on Friday that its experimental oral drug to treat acute bacterial skin infections cleared a late-stage study, bringing the antibiotic developer one step closer to getting
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU environment ministers are bracing for a tough debate on Tuesday to find a compromise on reforms to the carbon market, EU sources said, with nations split over how to balance cl
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - An El Nino weather pattern, which brought a scorching drought to southern Africa last year, could return in the spring which usually occurs from August to October, the South A
A review of research has shown that the use of phosphodiesterase type 5, or PDE-5, inhibitors are safe for treating pulmonary hypertension in children.
The US has the most people tweeting about insomnia, followed by Brazil, Argentina and the UK. Users can zoom in on their specific area, or view a map showing a wider range.
Public health officials in several provinces remind young adults to check if they need vaccination boosters against mumps as cases mount.
The Supreme Court's recent ruling in Life Technologies v. Promega is likely to bring back that staple of the global supply chain: liquidated damages clauses in contracts.
US study explores "orgasm gap" between genders and different sexual orientations.
My son Ben’s medical problems emerged in his first year and have been continuous throughout his 11 years of life. In parenting him, I have become an expert. While I certainly don’t know as much as do

Recent News

Quebec pension fund manager reports 'solid' return of 7.6% in 2016

Quebec's giant pension fund manager, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, posted a 7.6 per cent return on investment last year, bringing its net a
Read Full Article

Husky may sell some of its assets in N.L. offshore oil industry: sources

Canadian oil and gas producer Husky Energy Inc is weighing paring down its stakes in some of its Eastern Canadian offshore assets, people familiar wi
Read Full Article

Remains found on Greek island confirmed as Briton who vanished in 2005

Human remains found in a well in Crete are those of a British holidaymaker who went missing more than a decade ago, police have confirmed.
Read Full Article

Mexico rejected US plan on third-country deportees

The Mexican government has made clear to visiting US emissaries that it will not accept deportees from third countries under any circumstances, the interior secretary said.
Read Full Article

A mysterious hairy blob has washed up on the coast of the Philippines

What is it? Where did it come from? Why is it furry?
Read Full Article

German spy agency 'targeted phones of foreign reporters'

Germany's spy agency had at least 50 numbers and email addresses of journalists among its surveillance targets, it has been reported.
Read Full Article

Vote on UN Syria sanctions could come soon though Russia makes veto vow

Nations urging the UN to sanction Syria over chemical weapons attacks are aiming towards a vote shortly, it has been announced.
Read Full Article

Dozens killed in attacks near Syria town captured from IS

More than 60 people have been killed in at least two attacks near a Syrian town just captured by Turkish forces and Syrian opposition fighters from Islamic State militants, Turkey's news agency said.
Read Full Article

Chemicals discovered in cat study 'show children also face risk'

Furniture chemicals found in the blood of cats may pose a health risk to children, researchers claim.
Read Full Article

Popular Finance

Three takeaways from the Kings' 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins

With six losses in their last eight games, the Kings are in their deepest funk of the season. They’re also in their worst scoring drought, with just six goals combined in those six losses – two of
Read Full Article

Former USC football player Gerald Washington confronts long odds against heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder

Former USC football player Gerald Washington’s unlikely path to a heavyweight championship fight has been cleared. Now, he just needs to find openings to land punches on champion Deontay Wilder. W
Read Full Article

New 'Twin Peaks' art is out, with a couple of very familiar faces

Today in Entertainment: 'The Get Down' to return to Netflix; Rihanna named Harvard Humanitarian of the Year Feb. 24, 2017, 10:25 a.m. With the Oscars around the corner and much of Hollywood still
Read Full Article

A celebration, and wake, for a campaign legend and a Republican Party that is no more

At conservative gathering, Trump tries to define a new GOP Feb. 24, 2017, 10:42 a.m. A look at President Trump's administration and the rest of Washington: At CPAC, president calls for Republican
Read Full Article

Jonathan Gold reviews Irenia in Santa Ana, which is reinterpreting traditional Filipino cuisine

When you hit Irenia at the right time in the afternoon, maybe late on a Saturday when the lunch rush has faded away, you may run into a couple of old guys who look as if they’ve never left their t
Read Full Article

Today in Entertainment: Prominent Iranian Americans will represent Asghar Farhadi at Oscars; New 'Twin Peaks' art

Today in Entertainment: 'The Get Down' to return to Netflix; Rihanna named Harvard Humanitarian of the Year Feb. 24, 2017, 10:25 a.m. With the Oscars around the corner and much of Hollywood still
Read Full Article

Two prominent Iranian Americans will represent Asghar Farhadi at Sunday's Oscars

Today in Entertainment: 'The Get Down' to return to Netflix; Rihanna named Harvard Humanitarian of the Year Feb. 24, 2017, 10:25 a.m. With the Oscars around the corner and much of Hollywood still
Read Full Article

'Bring an umbrella': Rain and chilly temperatures could dampen Oscars red carpet

It looks like there might be an unwelcome guest at Hollywood's biggest night Sunday: Mother Nature. The National Weather Service said Friday that there is a 40% chance of rain for most of Sunday,
Read Full Article

Trump still loves the USC/L.A. Times poll: What it got right and what it got wrong

At conservative gathering, Trump tries to define a new GOP Feb. 24, 2017, 10:42 a.m. A look at President Trump's administration and the rest of Washington: At CPAC, president calls for Republican
Read Full Article