GUNS, MENTAL HEALTH, VIOLENCE AND SUICIDE

 

I didn’t know the title of the theme song for the long-running television show MASH, but Tom did. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Tom could name the song, Suicide Is Painless, and sang along with it whenever it played on the radio.

I hadn’t given much thought to suicide before bipolar became a third party in our marriage. Tom and I’d agreed before we married that we didn’t want guns in our home.

I’d grown up with gun racks and loaded rifles in pick-up trucks in rural Kansas. Tom was taught to hunt as an adolescent and obtained sniper status for the military. Thankfully he was never asked to serve in that capacity.

The military was more interested in Tom’s intellect than his shooting ability and that afforded him comfortable working conditions. His military uniform was most often a suit and tie. He served as a key component of the Army’s Organizational Effectiveness Team. Instead of going to the field, his travel consisted of hotels where turn-down service was provided and a chocolate waited on his pillow.

There’s no disputing that mass shooting episodes are horrific. For the purposes of this blog, I’m addressing the 88 gun-related deaths that occur each day in the United States and not the mass shootings.

Of the 88 people that die each day from a gun: 90 percent of those deaths are suicide, a high portion of which are committed by seniors and individuals living in rural areas.

In cities, gun-related deaths are typically homicides. If we want to reduce this number, it comes to reducing gun-related violence on the streets.

Guns and gun legislation are topics we hear about daily. I couldn’t delay updating my research findings any longer. As recently as May 8, 2014 a team of investigative researchers at the American College of Physicians (APC) based all of their policy decision on scientific evidence.

Family doctors and internists have been identified as the first line of defense against both gun violence and suicide. The APC stated, “When it comes to reducing gun-related violence, physicians must play a vital role in making firearm safety a public health issue so that policy and law are based on scientific evidence.”

I’m in agreement with the APC. The United States will never have appropriate gun legislation while it’s tangled in second amendment rights.

The media has played into the mental health status of each mass shooting. We’ve watched them unfold in the news.

We’ve seen serious mental health issues connected to the shootings that should have been addressed years before these tragedies occurred. These incidents should have been no surprise to the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the shooter firing the weapon(s). The behaviors developed in the mind of a psychotic individual do not divulge over night.

Overall the mental health issues surrounding gun violence are in a complex area that requires a nuanced approach.

People with mental illness are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence. Individuals with mental illness who receive appropriate treatment are less likely to commit acts of violence.

Scientific Data Revealed: 32,000 deaths per year are caused by guns (roughly 11,000 to homicides and 19,000 to suicides).

Non-fatal gun-related injuries are more than double that of deaths.

My husband, Tom and I have often talked of the distorted truth regarding bipolar disorder and especially how the disease is misrepresented in the media.

The following facts about mental illness and violence were compiled by the American Psychiatric Association (1994). Fact Sheet: Violence and Mental Illness. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. The Fact Sheet has numerous citations and I’m happy to pass the individual sites on to anyone who’s interested.

FACTS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS AND VIOLENCE

Fact 1 – The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent.

Fact 2 – The public is misinformed about the link between mental illness and violence.

Fact 3 – Inaccurate beliefs about mental illness and violence lead to widespread stigma    and discrimination.

Fact 4 – The link between mental illness and violence is promoted by the entertainment and news media.

FACTS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS AND VIOLENCE BY LEADING RESEARCH FACILITIES

“Characters in prime-time television portrayed as having mental illnesses are depicted as the most dangerous of all demographic groups: 60 percent were shown to be involved in crime or violence.” (Mental Health America, 1999)

“The vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness.” (American Psychiatric Association, 1994)

“The absolute risk of violence among the mentally ill as a group is small . . . only a small proportion of the violence in our society can be attributed to persons who are mentally ill.” (Mulvey, 1994)

“People with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime (Appleby, et. al., 2001). People with severe mental illness: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are two and one-half times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population.” (Hiday, et. al., 1999)

This blog is the first of a series about Tom’s and my many struggles to keep our home free

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Official Logo for 2014 Participants

of guns. It should be simple but it’s not. I’ve spoken numerous times in multiple congressional committee meetings about the necessity of protecting the individual who wants to harm him or herself. A data base would not be difficult to set up nation wide and with volunteers such as myself, the data entry would be a free public service. I’ll discuss attempted suicides and how we’ve coped with the situation when it appeared in our lives.

Suicide and attempted suicide are difficult subjects to write about. I understand that sometimes the pain is relentless and there seems no place to turn. I fully understand how suicide can seem the only solution.

Suicide is anything but painless.

 

About sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches.

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B&N. Health Care Reform proponent to include Tri Care and Medicare. Actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare @ their own discretion without affecting other benefits. Active legislative analyst. Now writing womens' fiction and professional book reviews. Concerned citizen of military drawdown.
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74 Responses to GUNS, MENTAL HEALTH, VIOLENCE AND SUICIDE

  1. I was very surprised by this statement: “Of the 88 people that die each day from a gun: 90 percent of those deaths are suicide, a high portion of which are committed by seniors and individuals living in rural areas.”—-but then, thinking about it again, NOT! Lately, I have come to realize that there are more suicides that occur out here “in the sticks” than I realized previously. Not that I was looking for information, but it was revealed to me the code terms used to indicate a suicide, when listening to the police dispatchers. (I don’t listen to police dispatchers either!) My questions are: What causes the suicides and what can be done to prevent so many from occurring? My first thought is that the isolation of living in the rural area could be a cause. Isolation, in turn, leads to a host of problems that probably cause individuals to become overwhelmed and at a loss, and then see no alternative to their situation, except suicide. An elderly lady, whom I did not know, five miles from here, committed suicide a year ago–she was alone, and her friend had died the year previously. Her health was deteriorating. She had no living relatives. One day, she must have decided it was enough…my friend, who checked on her every Saturday, found her…she had used a shotgun. I think loneliness and isolation is so prevalent in our society, despite the façade of everyone belonging to some team.

    • Hello my friend. Welcome to the discussion regarding guns in our society and especially how the mentally ill are more likely than not blamed for all shooting related deaths. I’ve spent so much time researching military suicide the past couple years, I had allowed some of my data research to become out-dated where it related to the general populations.

      I agree with you about some of the reasons for suicide in rural areas. I’m a firm believer in anyone living alone becoming involved in a minimum of one group activity. I’m not a joiner by nature and will grumble all the way to an activity and just as loudly all the way home. However, activity with others is an absolute must for the individual living in our rural areas. In days gone by (50 years or so) seniors living alone in rural communities were visited everyday by a younger member of the community. I grew up in such a community and I remember my mother often baking an extra pie, loaf of homemade bread, fresh vegetables from the garden or whatever she thought appropriate and she’d snag one of us kids and we’d pay the ‘shut-in’ a visit.

      My brothers and I often wondered why Mom called the individuals shut-ins as they were at our church each Sunday and we’d see them drive places. I get it now. They were always alone.

      That particular life-style has gone by the way-side for us that grew up in extreme rural (60 miles or more) from the nearest town. Those farms have been taken up by corporate farming. As farmers have become unable to take care of there families with what they produce and recognize there’s no way to save the family farm and the farm is too deep in debt to salvage, suicide seems to be the way they surrender. It’s easier than watching their beloved farm being auctioned off with a Sheriff’s Sale. I believe when a farmer is a 5th or 6th generation farmer and he’s the one that loses the family farm, it’s simply too much and he cannot hold onto life any longer. I’ve heard of this happening in the area where I grew up more than once or twice. After the man commits suicide the wife follows the same path a year or so later.

  2. Tanya says:

    Does your blog allow people to “like” your posts? I notice when I’m on this blog that the “like” section just keeps saying “loading,” and doesn’t allow me to click like. Anyway, I’m glad that you are trying to clear up the misinformation and stereotypes about mentally ill people. The mentally ill people I’ve known are not at all dangerous and I’ve never felt a need to feel afraid of them.

    • Tanya – I’m sorry the ‘like’ button wouldn’t work for you. To answer your question: yes I have a button and yes several others have used it and continue to do so. I know for myself, I often cannot leave a like if I’m reading a post in my ‘reader.’ I have to go ahead and upload the blog and then I’m able to upload the like as well.

      I’m doing a series on suicide, attempted suicide and keeping the person you love safe even with guns being so readily available. Statistics are widely reported that if a mentally ill person uses a gun, it’s to kill themselves and not someone else.

      When I read your article, it was clear to me that it belonged in my on-going effort to advocate for stricter gun regulations. I didn’t have to think twice about my desire to reblog it. Sheri

  3. jbw0123 says:

    It seems ironic that doctors are considered the first front line of defense for preventing suicide. Two physician friends committed suicide by gunshot wound in our small town within the past five years. It is heartbreaking. One purchased a gun the same day he killed himself. Thank you for your continued efforts to shine a light on mental illness and the dangers of readily available firearms.

    • Julia – Thanks for commenting. If I remember correctly, the profession with the highest number of suicides is doctors. I could be off here so please don’t hesitate to correct me. We know that guns contribute to death more often than any other means.

      I so agree that doctors (as in general practitioners and internists) are being asked to be the first line of defense in preventing suicide. These individual doctors are ‘supposed’ to detect possible suicidal tendencies within the same time period (15 minutes at the most) wherein they are dealing with a chronic medical issue.

      I’m sure your husband has seen the message wherein physicians are going to be able to weigh in on discussing the amount doctors should be paid beginning 2015. If by chance he missed it in his busy schedule or if you would like to see it, I ‘think’ I saved it to my e-mail archives. I read it quickly last night and was immediately angry that they were not allowing concerned citizens to weigh in with their own opinions. Sheri

  4. Well researched and well said as always. I once read that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. That may be true for some but certainly not all. It’s good to see the medical community speaking out on guns and health. And more and more the first responders and military folks are recognizing this growing problem. There is a very good column at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yost-zakhary/united-by-a-uniform-first_b_4016814.html by the head of the American Association of Chiefs of Police. He nailed the problem just as you did.

  5. Very helpful, Sheri! I just wish everyone could read it.

  6. Sheri, I’m always so impressed by the way you tackle these big issues – you’re a force to be reckoned with :-) In the UK the culture is very different in that guns aren’t a common part of life at all (though more so than they were once), but we do have increasing issues with knife crime. I recognise that portrayal linking mental illness with those who commit violent crime and it seems to be an insidious view that I think it will be so difficult to break – perhaps it’s easier (lazier) to blame mental illness than face some of the other factors we’ve created as a society.

    • Andrea – Thank you for the compliment. I see it as an extension of who I am and a continuation of the work I’ve always done but you caused me to smile. My therapist made me laugh when she gave me a homework assignment one time. I was responsible for saying thank you when anyone paid me a compliment!

      Tom and I both enjoy watching British shows and we’ve often commented on the absence of the blood and gore we see in the state side shows. We also don’t see the terrible killings with guns. That’s not to say some of the programs don’t have violence, because they do, and sometimes mental illness is involved but nothing like we see here. More often than not the inspectors and such are the ones that seem to have problems. However, perhaps that’s the way the collaborators of the story succeed at entertaining the public.

      I have a series of blogs on the subject of guns, mental health, etc but I’ll more than likely post them about once a month. It’s far too intense for me to stay within the confines of the subject. Thank you for being here. Take care, Sheri

  7. atempleton says:

    “Of the 88 people that die each day from a gun: 90 percent of those deaths are suicide, a high portion of which are committed by seniors and individuals living in rural areas.” This is a startling fact to me, and it has not been addressed in the media to any extent.

    • You are so correct. It’s easy for the media not to talk about the 88 people who die each day from a gun and 90 percent of those deaths are a suicide. My statistics are from a Mental Health Fact Sheet prepared by the American College of Physicians. I suspected suicides would be heavier in rural areas and with seniors but I didn’t think the spread would be that wide. People living in rural areas are often below the poverty level. A once proud people who fed the world can no longer afford to feed themselves. Their farms haven’t turned a profit in longer than they can remember and more farmers are over 65 than ever before. Often individuals living in rural areas have lost their mate of 50 or more years and they become unbearably lonely. They wouldn’t think of speaking to anyone about it, even if there was anyone to speak with. There’s no longer money to be made on what was once the family farm. The children normally live in far away places and the remaining days and nights drag on forever. This population base is in real trouble. Because they are so proud they are not going to ask anyone for a hand. They’d rather die first and that’s what they do.

      While their friends were spending their careers in factory positions, the farmers were told by President Harry Truman to buy land, buy more land. It will be your safety net. Don’t pay into social security. Land will always be worth a fortune. President Truman was correct in that land did become worth a great deal of money but if you had to mortgage that land to pay for farming and one thing after another drove the price of your crops down and your expenses up, by the time the farmers reached retirement age, the average social security check was in the low $300.

      We both know it’s been a very long time since anyone could live on $300 a month. Think about needing gas to drive into town or attend church, pay utilities, keep your old car or truck running, buy medication but probably take it maybe every 3rd or 4th day, and on and on. Even if someone does ask you to join them for a social activity, the rural senior citizen can’t participate as they don’t have disposable income to make anything extra come to light.

      I’d like for the media to do a special report. The elderly are dying and suicide is meeting all of the criteria we expect: hopelessness, loneliness, disenfranchised, worthless and the classic reasons someone commits suicide march on.

  8. Hey, Beth. I think I must have given you a mixed message. My desire is to see two separate but equal legislative processes take place. Scientific data, as presented in the mental health facts above, report those with a mental illness routinely are not violent. The percentage is a small number. What we have where the guns are concerned is an out-of-control society where criminal behavior is not recognized as evil intent to do harm. We have the media saying violence is okay and a paying public supporting that theory. The mentally ill are taking the rap without committing the crime. I lay much of the fault at the feet of inattentive parenting and parents involved in drugs and alcohol. The shooter of the Sandy Hook crisis had not ‘talked’ with his mother in two years yet they lived in the same house. Wouldn’t that be a red flag to you if that were a child in your care. When she thought he needed socialization she took him to the gun range with her as that’s where she liked to hang out. Is that where you would have taken your teen if he already had severe anti-social problems? The young shooters we are hearing so much about don’t become the way they are over night. It’s a process the parents refuse to acknowledge and the child finally blows and it’s too late. Thank you for commenting and leaving your reply. We are all entitled to our opinion and I sincerely appreciate yours. Sheri

    • ksbeth says:

      i agree that parenting is a huge issue here, and i wish there was an easier system to support those who do seek help for their loved ones who are struggling with mental health issues. i have a friend going through this right now, her son suffers from an early onset bipolar status, and she a strong advocate for getting her son the care he needs, and she is constantly running up against walls in the system preventing her from getting him the help he truly needs. fortunately she is his advocate and an intelligent woman who does not give up and continues to buck the system to provide him with support. parents must be mindful and openly aware of what their child is feeling and doing at all times. as for the ones who choose to ignore it, put their heads in the sand, cross their fingers, or god forbid – encourage it, by taking them to a gun range, shame on them, they share the responsibility for what happens.

      • Beth: I’m thankful your friend is your son’s advocate. Without an advocate, his life will become a living hell. (I speak from a voice of experience). I’ve volunteered in the system for 20+ years all to learn if magic tricks were tossed about somewhere that I simply was overlooking. We didn’t have to use the system due to having full pay insurance but I was sure there must be something else. Finding the correct medications is a nightmare and there side affects are even worse. In my opinion, a seasoned therapist is an absolute must.
        Your friend is the absolute best component of his survival/health team. It’ll be rough going for her but she’s intelligent and I trust she’ll persevere. Sheri

  9. Denise Hisey says:

    There are so many different reasons people contemplate suicide, but probably boils down to one single issue: overwhelming pain -whether it is emotional/physical/mental/spiritual pain.
    I grew up with guns in the house, guns at school (boys brought loaded guns for hunting after school and had them in the coat closet) and guns at most of the neighbor’s houses. Never once in my entire childhood was there ever a homicide or suicide in my hometown with a gun. (no accidental shooting either) Suicides happened, and a few rare homicides but with other methods. I think the media’s fascination with guns has done a terrible disservice to society and glorified violence in general.
    My take on mental illness is if we focus on early intervention and treatment, we wouldn’t need to have the discussion about mental illness and guns. We also need to remove the stigma over mental illness. Every family on the planet is probably affected in some way with mental illness yet we act like it’s a scourge and contagious.
    This is an important topic, Sheri, and I applaud you for bringing it up. It’s going to take a very long time to make significant progress. People like you are why it will happen, though.

    • Denise Hisey says:

      Correction: I can’t believe I forgot about this, but there was one gun-related homicide. A girl fatally shot her stepfather who had been abusing her and her sister for years. She was sent to the psychiatric hospital for one year instead of jail, because -you guessed it -she was deemed mentally ill.

    • Denise – I agree with you completely. Our home was never locked and the keys were left in all the vehicles and farming equipment the years I was growing up. Keys were even left in vehicles when we went in town for something. The first and only time I ever saw my mother defend herself was with a rolling pin and that was to smack at a goose who thought he was the king of the far back yard. He didn’t last long!
      I remember the morning the news came over the radio that a rich farmer and his family had been murdered, in their home, in a distant part of the state. That one incident, known as ‘In Cold Blood’ probably did more for rural personal safety than any other crime related event until sometime in the late 1980s. I’m speaking solely of what I remember for Kansas and not any other part of the United States.

    • Denise, Thank you for stopping in and thank you for adding the additional message. It’s amazing what comes to the forefront of our minds and what doesn’t when we’re remembering the past. I so agree about the father being the one that was mentally ill. I would guess the two daughters probably have PTSD unless it’s been treated.

  10. How timely for me. I just attended a very large funeral for a co-worker who committed suicide by shooting himself. Tragic situation all around, but the survivors are the ones who hurt the most. Married and father of a teenager….suicide is not painless. Love you post!

    • Kirt – You are so right in that the family of your co-worker is definitely in pain. Those of you who worked with him are probably feeling your own loss as well. One of the research papers I read stated 11 people are affected by each suicide. I couldn’t remember which agency published the statistic so I didn’t put it in my blog. Thanks for stopping by. Take care, Sheri

  11. FlaHam says:

    Sheri, what a powerful post. Thankfully I am not so naive that I believe everything I see on TV, or I too would think that only the folks with mental issues commit crime, but TV and entertainment alike use these individual as the villain more often than not. I am not well versed on this issue, so thank you for beginning my education. I look forward to you and Tom’s future post on this topic. Take care, Bill

    • Hi Bill, How are you today? Thanks for visiting, reading and of course for your comment. You are so right about the fact that media puts a glossy spin on violence. Having been involved (as all in) for almost 30 years in the mental health community, we recognize media will continue doing what they do because that’s what the advertisers pay for. And, as long as people pay the ticket price for the movies, the movies will be made.

  12. kkessler833 says:

    I realize that most mentally ill people are not violent but I know for a fact that when I was young we did not hear of children arming themselves and shooting other children. We had the media then and I’m sure it would have been reported if it occurred. That is a dramatic difference in the use of guns and I wish there were some way to get guns out of the hands of children and adults that are unhappy and have followed this ridiculous course of action.

    • I did not hear of anyone shooting anyone else, mass or otherwise when I was young, or in high school or college. It wasn’t until many, many years later that I came into contact with violence and then it didn’t have to do with mental illness. It had to do with an evil mind. I believe the vast difference between today and the time when you were a child is that parents honestly cared about their children. Families sat down together to have dinner. Real conversations were held and each family member was heard. Family members didn’t put each other down as I often witness today.

      There was media when I was at home but there was no television during the day and definitely not at dinner time. We also did not get up from the table to answer the telephone. I thought that was a harsh rule back then, but now I know what my parents already knew. The most important people to my parents were already at the table and everything and everyone else could wait. I wonder how many of the kids doing the shooting have that type of relationship with their parents today?

      I believe the kids of today, waving the guns around and shooting at will are doing so because they are full of rage and anger and they have no place to take that feeling. No one has taught them about emotions and that it’s okay to ‘feel’ but the right to ‘feel’ comes with responsibility.

  13. Paul Komarek says:

    Thank you for focusing on such a tough topic. The main defense against suicide is ordinary people. They are the closest to the situation. I want to hear more about your experience of keeping someone safe in a culture that downplays lethal risk.

    I’ve been writing about this for years. For a collection of my stuff, see my blog. Start here. http://www.redesigningmentalillness.net/2014/04/mental-illness-suicide-and-violence.html

    • Hello Paul, Thank you for stopping in and commenting. I look forward to reading your blog. Yes, suicide is tough to cope with but I decided early on that preventing suicide was far easier than coping with the results. I also believe the person living with the individual is the person best suited to prevent suicide.
      I’m appalled that we’ve lost more soldiers to suicide than we have to battle in the combined Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The VA hasn’t a clue of how to prevent suicide when you consider we lose a veteran every hour of every day.
      I’m also concerned that as medical care becomes more and more difficult for those 65 and over to obtain, we’ll see more suicides. Far too much has been asked of this generation. Take care and I hope to see you again. Sheri

      • Paul: I tried to leave a comment on your blog but was not successful. I’ll follow by e-mail and see if that works better. I’m anxious to read your thoughts on this often overlooked and over analyzed components of your articles.

        • Paul Komarek says:

          Sheri
          Thanks for the note. I am working on an upgrade to my blogging platform. People can reach me at Paul.Komarek at Gmail.com. I’m pretty good at email. I do moderate blog comments at http://www.redesigningmentalillness.net.

          I consider anyone with experience with firearms and especially those who have seen combat or police service to be high risk for suicide. Suicide involves a combination of three factors: Impaired relatedness (disconnection from people) plus impaired efficacy (feeling of effectiveness in life) plus acquired fearlessness or capacity for self-harm. People who are trained to kill have the capacity to take their own life. The question is would they want to, especially if they feel like they belong and that they are worthy of remaining in the world. The best most useful book on suicide prevention is by Thomas Joyner, Why People Commit Suicide. It is not really about mental illness diagnosis, it is about feelings of connection and self-worth, and capacity for self-harm.

          Veterans and the military have done a bad job of making people who encounter problems and a disability, even after amazing acts of self-sacrifice and heroin, feel useful and connected to the military culture. People who feel useless and discarded –well, it’s just what you’d imagine, and what many are experiencing today.

          I believe ordinary people are the key to safety. I have a little script, just four questions that screen for trouble and keep people connected and supported.

          1. What have you accomplished in the last week (or since we last met)?
          At least we met up again today…that is a positive

          2. What are you facing?
          This is about whatever is going on, non-diagnostic, self-described. The point is to let the person feel listened to.

          3. Who are your allies?
          This reveals connectedness. And if you don’t hear of allies, you can commit to being an ally.

          4. What is your plan?
          Just listening to the plan helps the person. If there is no plan, it is time to step up support, take precautions, call in help, call the doctor, hang out with the person more or whatever it takes.

          This is the toughest stuff. I know many people who have kept distressed people safe because they were willing to engage the person, stay with the person and do whatever was needed to protect the person they love from harm.

          Best regards. Have courage.

          –pk—

  14. Ah, Sheri … this is so close to the bone. As you already know, suicide became all too real to me decades ago. It followed a path from mental illness, depression, lost promise and finally … escape.

    I forbid “toy” guns in our house. I am of a strong belief that toy guns have a lasting effect on boys as do Barbie dolls on girls. It sends the wrong message.

    Perhaps legislation or the attempt at legislation will raise the awareness of government and mental health providers … help those who are struggling with these issues … help their families and help them.

    • Hi, Florence. I’d like to start with getting the automatic and semi-automatic weapons plus the extra long clips off the streets first. I cannot imagine why anyone needs such a weapon unless they are law enforcement or military. Then, the weapon should be locked in the arms room, except when the person qualified to carry the weapon is on duty.
      The National Rifle Association feeds so many on the hill with big money, I’m concerned we’ll never see legislation and if we do, we’ll never see enforcement.

  15. gpcox says:

    The “suicide” in the M*A*S*H* movie was definitely painless, but reality is always different, especially watching someone else go thru the pain.

  16. Gallivanta says:

    Dear Sheri, If this is what you were working on last night, no wonder you were finding sleep difficult. Guns, suicide, violence, mental health; all such important topics and very rarely dealt with as clearly and sensibly as you have done here in your post. I look forward to supporting more of your posts on this subject. Suicide is definitely NOT painless. And neither are attempted suicides.

  17. This is such a great post. I had a realization while reading it, an ah ha moment, that lawyers play this insanity thing up related to crimes to get their client off and somewhere along the road “insanity” and “violence” intermingled as a duo. Mental illness has gotten a bad rap with the pleas of insanity in the courtroom. This is my humble opinion but I think the two have been misunderstood and misidentified. And it’s fueled and continued in all the TV dramas that hit the “mental illness” button coupled with crime. As if “crimal” = “mental illness” when it doesn’t. Criminal behavior is just that criminal, immoral. Never quite looked at it this way before. I’ve not equated mental illness with increased crime but boy the press sure does play up those profiles of “disturbed” shooters, etc. Thank you for this. Not an easy topic to converse about but another one so important.

    • Paulette, if we don’t address the problem of guns, drugs and gangs we might as well fold up and go home. We’ll always have drugs coming into the country as we are the provider of weapons to the drug cartels. I also believe you are correct in your opinion of overuse of the insanity defense.

      • Very true. I didn’t address this nor the suicide question/problem in my response. There’s a lot more to be said, screamed, with regards to these issues. I was wrapped up in my own anger over the corruption of the mental games the legal system gets into when I realized how it plays into furthering the mental illness stigmatization. I saw the insidiousness of how this zaps out compassion where it’s needed and replaces it with harsh judgment. When the heart is in the issue situations are seen from a deeper perspective and these problems can be addressed with some reasonable hope for change, even if tiny steps. Thank you again!

        • Paulette, You are always welcome to leave as many comments as you like. As my friend Bill Harrison said on his blog, it’s in the comments when dialogue happens that we honestly feel like we’ve said something that struck home with someone.
          The issue of guns, violence, mental health and suicide is so broad it opens many avenues for most of us. I’d expect many to have a number of different comments.
          I wear a different hat when I’m writing a white paper regarding gun regulation than a white paper say on Medicare Reform. It’s a little like statistics. Tell me the outcome you are looking for and I can make the numbers say what you want. I hate to look at numbers that way but unfortunately that’s the reality of statistics in today’s world. Sheri

  18. M-R says:

    I’ve so many times muttered angrily that because someone goes off on a rampage and shoots a plurality of people does NOT mean he is mentally ill: it simply means that his standards are not the same as most people’s. Therefore if he be caught, subject him to the full force of the law !
    Of course, I’m prepared to admit that some killers might be genuine psychotics. But guns … ah, guns … I don’t know what is ever to be done about people who love guns. Nothing, I think it’s fair to say: the rest of us are not going to be able to wean them off these ‘bottles’, not ever.

    • I believe you are correct in not being able to wean anyone away from their guns. The myth of course is that guns will keep them safe when in fact there’s more deaths in homes where guns are present.

      • M-R says:

        And it’s that mindset that nobody is ever going to be able to change, Sheri – at least that’s how I see it from here.

        • M-R: Occasionally we have a change of heart when a family faces the death of a loved one due to a weapon not being secured and it results in the horrendous death of a family member or close friend. For whatever reason, it takes a tragedy before many see the truth in our reasoning.
          I wish I knew the number, but I don’t. I do know, from listening to conversations, that many who used to belong to the National Rifle Association, no longer carry an active membership. In talking with individuals I’ve come into contact with, they tell me the NRA has become too influential and too radical for their own belief system.
          Even if we put one gun down at a time, it will be worth the effort. Sheri

  19. As you know, the matter of suicide is of particular interest to me. Your post really enlightened me with regard to statistics and numbers. And what Cindy Knoke said about “show me a mentally healthy individual” strikes quite a chord, don’t you think?

  20. mihrank says:

    Reblogged this on mihran Kalaydjian and commented:
    GUNS, MENTAL HEALTH, VIOLENCE AND SUICIDE

  21. Hope says:

    The thing that makes me crazy in conversations about gun control is that they talk about keeping guns away from mentally ill people, but they don’t add that the biggest reason is to prevent people from harming themselves, not others. The mainstream presentation of the issue makes us sound like we’re all psycho killers who will snap and commit violent crimes the instant we get our hands on a gun. In point of fact, alcohol use is the single greatest predictor of gun violence toward others, but I have never heard a legislator talk about that issue. I’ve only ever heard one politician say that we need to separate the conversations about gun control and mental health care (and I’m working for her now).

  22. Elyse says:

    This is an important piece, Sheri. I too would be willing to help. Guns are such a terrible scourge, as you and I have discussed many times. They are no longer used primarily to hunt for food, or for protection. Times have changed and so should our laws.

  23. cindy knoke says:

    So important, especially to debunk the idea that the lonely, socially awkward young person is dangerous. There are legions of lonely socially awkward young people that are the result of a sick society and pose no danger to anyone, as is the case with mentally ill people. BTB the latest stats describe 25% of the population “in any given year,” as suffering from mental illness. The term is a misnomer, in 27 years of clinical practice I have challenged all my clients to “bring me your mentally healthy friend or relative.” All get it immediately. There is really no such thing as a mentally healthy person, but there are gradations in degrees of severity, suffering, and disability, as you know only too well my dear friend. Hugz and thank you for this important post.

  24. Again, another informative posting. I learned a lot.

  25. ksbeth says:

    yes, the mental illness component needs to be addressed, rather than just creating tougher gun legislation. this is a horrific number of deaths, some of them preventable, with early identification, intervention, and treatment for those who need the added support.

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