The State of Gun Violence in the Union
During tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama will likely mention his new plan to address gun violence. The main points of his plan are pretty spot on, and I expect us, as a nation, to drive the continuing conversation about addressing gun violence in such a way that measurable results are observed. His administration has outlined the policy with four major points:
“Keep guns out of the wrong hands through background checks.” – make sure that people who are struggling to maintain the clarity of thought needed to operate a gun with consistent safety are not allowed to purchase such an item until it is deemed permissible.
“Make our communities safer from gun violence.” – investment in systems that communicate ballistic information and internet gun-sales.
“Increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system.” – $500 million toward mental healthcare and reporting direct threats of homicide or suicide to the background check system.
“Shape the future of gun safety technology.” – investment in making guns safer so that accidents are greatly reduced.
These are all very important steps to reducing gun violence, but I feel the one that still requires the most conversation is the one about mental health. Effective treatment is key, but what does that look like? And how do we truly remove the stigma of mental illness?
I feel it may be important to recognize what mental illness truly is; a temporary condition that is the result of stress and trauma. When we label people as “bipolar” or “schizophrenic”, and assume these conditions to be chronic, we assert onto them a learned helplessness that they cannot improve, because it is simply in their nature to be ill. This is not the case.
All of us experience depression, all of us experience delusion, but in different ways and to different degrees. It is much like the flu. Most of the time we can power through, make it to work, and maybe take some cough syrup. Other times, it is such a powerful virus that we are confined to our rooms with the lights out.
Providing effective treatment that properly addresses the patient’s past traumas and current stresses, and provides them with strategies to move forward, will go a long way. After all, there are three gun related suicides to every two gun related homicides each year in the US. The gun violence issue is as much about the violence we put on ourselves as it is the violence we put on others.