Targeting Mental Illness Won’t Stop Gun Violence, Providers Say

Politicians are missing the mark when they blame mental illness for gun violence, including some high-profile mass shootings, mental health-care providers and gun violence experts told me recently. People who are mentally ill aren’t any more likely to shoot others than any other person, they said.

That doesn’t mean mental health professionals are powerless, they said. The experts outline steps providers can take that may help alleviate gun violence.

First, it’s important to recognize that most gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides, not homicides. Improving mental health care for people at risk of taking their own lives, therefore, should be a priority.

The experts also suggested providers work at changing the narrative, so that citizens and lawmakers are prompted to address more likely causes of gun violence, like uncontrolled anger. They identified some changes to existing gun reporting laws, like the Brady Act, that might keep more guns out of the hands of people likely to use them to hurt others.

Finally, the experts shared their distaste for state laws that put the onus on providers to report to state authorities patients who present a danger to themselves or others. Requirements like these may damage the doctor-patient confidentiality that is essential to treatment, they said.

The experts expressed a preference for state laws that allow family members and police officers to petition the court to remove guns from an at-risk individual. These laws are narrowly targeted and apply only for a designated amount of time, they said.

Read my article here.

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