Earlier this week we experienced yet another horrific shooting in Houston, Texas. Maybe put something in here about what happened In less than a week, the cause of the shooting has been the shooter, Nathan Desai’s, possible mental illness. The Gun Violence Archive of 2016 reported that is year alone there were almost 300 mass shootings, leading to over 350 deaths and 1100 injuries. Almost all of the shooters were accused of having a mental illness, while mental illnesses were rarely proven to be a cause.
Far too often the ignorance of the mentally ill causes them to become the scapegoats on which the guilt for mass murder is placed.
As a result, the mentally ill, innocent or not, become the victims of ridicule and persecution. Society places a stigma on the mentally ill that makes people believe that those anyone with a mental disorder are violent and dangerous when in reality, the vast majority will never commit a violent crime. Annals of Epidemiology reported that only 4% of the violence in America, not just gun violence, can be attributed to the top three mental illness connected to violence (schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder).
This means if we were to prevent all mentally ill people from committing violent actions, we would only decrease all violence by 4%. Not too promising, is it?
Jeffery Swanson, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University found that in reality, the people most likely to commit this type of crime are male, poor or abusing alcohol or drugs. However, the government and the NRA still choose to focus on preventing the mentally ill from buying guns simply because it is easier to legislate against the mentally ill than against all males, all poor people and all substance abuse.
Even the highest power in our country falsely blames the mentally ill for ensuing violence in our country. It has been known in business that “culture starts from the top” so if the government has a stigma against the mentally ill, what would cause, a less educated, more judgmental citizen to not think the same?
Because mentally ill people have been so brutally judged throughout our society, it makes it seem as though having a mental illness means being “less than”. Unfortunately for the ignorant minds of our society, it is reported by the Kim Foundation that 26.2% of our country has a mental illness. That is more than the United States Census Bureau’s finding that only 21% of our country has been divorced! That means more people have been diagnosed diseases such as schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder than an ex-wife or husband!
Unfortunately, legislation like the APPS (Armed Prohibited Person’s System) in California, which limits anyone who has been voluntarily admitted into a mental institution from purchasing firearms, only further harms this issue. Because the diagnosis of a patient can vary in great depth from doctor to doctor, the diagnosis can lead to a commitment to a mental hospital or the lack thereof. This means that a totally sane person may be prevented from buying a gun to protect themselves from someone was labeled as a sane person that was able to purchase a gun.
Most people point to early diagnosis as the best method of prevention from heinous crimes such as mass shootings but the real solution is to create real background checks to ensure that what we see is what will actually allow us to predict who the next shooter may be. Current background checks include 16 questions about your criminal and mental health history and a full background check from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This will help remove the blame from the innocent, let alone mentally ill, people and place it onto the cruel, ruthless individuals who actually commit the crimes.