President Donald Trump has pledged to "help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health” but if it only were that simple. How difficult is the issue of mental health in a country where every citizen does not even completely believe in mental health?
First and foremost, many are scared of those suffering from mental illnesses because they have previously been identified as perpetrators of violence. It is mandatory to understand that the significantly larger number of mental health patients are sufferers and victims of violence. In fact, many mental illnesses are brought about by having been introduced to violence at an early age due to divorcing parents, insecurity, sexual abuse or parental abuse.
Instead of creating ripples of fear amongst the public of those who are mentally ill, we must embrace them and give them the love, care and treatment they deserve so that they heal and don't resort to violence to have their needs met. In the case of the recent Parkland shooting, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz who is held responsible for the death of 17 adults and students, is said to have vented his need and desire to be associated with violence on social media for years.
People with mental health issues require attention and treatment that go unheard due to missing parental figures or devoted care that growing children of their age require. Instead of leafing through historical records of the Nikolas Cruz's past anger problems after the damage has been done, we should have recognized his cries of plea earlier on to help him heal so we would never have to see his worst.
This goes to say for previous mass shooters who have been studied to have similar histories of impulsive anger. Omar Mateen, the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooter in Orlando, Florida, had beaten his wife and ex-wife and was accused of sexual assault. Elliot Rodger had splashed hot coffee on two strangers who he saw kissing prior to his 2014 shooting rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara.
While the liberal gun laws don't help curbing violence, they certainly are not the only reason behind excessive mass shootings in the United States. They are merely a tool used by the mentally ill to vent. If they were not given access to this tool, they would find another. That being said, gun laws definitely need to be looked into, but the identification and following treatment of mentally ill patients should be of foremost importance.
According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Sciences and the Law, every 1 in 10 adults has a history of impulsive anger - as identified by angry outbursts, being destructive - breaking and smashing things, getting into physical fights. Their access to a firearm gives them the power they so desire to get their voice heard.
We need to find a way to track violent behavior and attend to those engaging in it. “Probably the strongest predictor of violence is previous violent behavior,” says Jeffrey Swanson, lead study author, and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine.
"Gun violence and serious mental illness are two very important but distinct public health issues that intersect only at their edges," he added. "The traditional legal approach has been to prohibit firearms from involuntarily committed psychiatric patients, but now we have more evidence that current laws don't necessarily keep firearms out of the hands of a lot of potentially dangerous individuals."
The study dwells deeper into the relationship between three groups of people, those who owned several guns, those who carried them outside their house, and those who had histories of anger issues. Interestingly they found that those who owned six or more guns were more likely to carry them outside their house and belong to the "high-risk anger group" when compared to those who owned a single firearm.
Furthermore, those who were above the age of 30 and were settled with families and owned guns were seen to be in the safer category when compared to those gun owners who are younger than 30 and live in the fringes of the city.
Concluding, it is not right to group mental illness and violence together, because one can lead to the other, but does not always lead to the other if given due attention and treatment.
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