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In gun debate, don't stigmatize mentally ill

Date published: 1/30/2013

In gun debate, don't stigmatize mentally ill

When it comes to the discussion of gun control, how are we defining "the mentally ill"?

Why should the call for universal background checks exclude the physically ill? Is it because those who seek treatment for mental health problems are likely to engage in deranged behavior and criminal acts? What if the concern is depression, anxiety, addiction, or a minor phobia?

Physical illness falls along a spectrum of disease from the common cold, to chronic illness, to life-threatening events. Similarly, mental health problems can be situational, or a natural response to loss, or stress. Even when the diagnosis is a major psychiatric disorder, a propensity for violence does not necessarily exist. Yet the stigma of being crazy persists.

Scapegoating of "the mentally ill" needs to stop, so that we as a nation can rightfully examine why these unspeakable shooting events have occurred. Legislating the mentally ill is not the fix to stop gun violence.

In the end, when it comes to unrestricted access to guns, having more equitable access to treatment programs for the mentally ill may be of more value than fingering them with the blame.

Kelly Hicks