Mental health efforts in gun debate are raising concerns

Some advocates worry that a new focus on mental health issues could lead to unfair assumptions about patients and could keep them from seeking help.

The New York Times: Focus On Mental Health Laws To Curb Violence Is Unfair, Some Say
Legislation to revise existing mental health laws is under consideration in at least a half-dozen states, ... President Obama has ordered "a national dialogue" on mental health, and a variety of bills addressing mental health issues are percolating on Capitol Hill. But critics say that this focus unfairly singles out people with serious mental illness, who studies indicate are involved in only about 4 percent of violent crimes and are 11 or more times as likely than the general population to be the victims of violent crime. And many proposals ... are rushed in execution and unlikely to repair a broken mental health system, some experts say (Goode and Healy, 1/31).

Los Angeles Times: Survey Finds Strong Support For Gun Control, More Mental Healthcare
New survey results published Thursday by the New England Journal of Medicine show that a majority of Americans -- gun owners and non-owners alike -- support stricter measures to keep handguns from people under 21 and to block ownership of any guns for 10 years by those who have perpetrated domestic violence ... But a murkier picture emerged when Americans were asked about keeping guns out of the hands of those with mental illness. Almost 70% of respondents supported greater government spending and insurance coverage for mental healthcare as a means of averting gun violence. But fear and suspicion of those with mental illness were also strongly evident (Healy, 1/31).

The Huffington Post: Mental Health Solutions Alone Can't Thwart Gun Violence, Experts Say
But public health and firearms experts assert that focusing on mental illness is unlikely to achieve a significant reduction in gun violence, because the vast majority of shootings are the handiwork of people who do not fit the profile of those deemed dangerous. Moreover, by shifting the debate away from gun control and toward mental health concerns, proponents run the risk of further stigmatizing mental illness, discouraging those who confront it from seeking professional help (Young, 2/1).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


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