Different Perspectives on Mental Health and Gun Violence

LAS VEGAS -- Much is being aired and written in the national media about whether an increased investment in mental health care would have any impact on reducing gun violence.

Here are examples of those reports:

USA Today wrote about President Barack Obama's mental health care initiatives in response to the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. This includes directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to "research the causes and prevention of gun violence."

Bloomberg.com weighed in on Obama's proposals as well, such as a measure that includes "training teachers to recognize students who need help" so that they can be referred to mental health services.

CBS News listed the executive actions Obama is taking related to mental health, including "clarification that the new health care law does not prohibit doctors from asking their patients about guns in their homes."

Kaiser Health News also issued a dispatch on Obama's plan, noting that "22 percent of 14 to 17 year olds in the U.S. have witnessed a shooting in their lifetime."

The Associated Press wrote about some states that are rethinking mental health cuts due to recent mass shootings.

But the Huffington Post quoted experts as saying that focusing on mental health solutions may not be enough to significantly reduce gun violence "because the vast majority of shootings are the handiwork of people who do not fit the profile of those deemed dangerous."

The National Journal similarly reported that improving mental health would do little to stop gun violence for these reasons: "Psychiatric professionals are not good at identifying people who will go on to commit acts of violence; many perpetrators of mass shootings had no contact with the mental health system; and, even when the potentially violent are identified, treatment for mentla illness is not always effective in preventing violent acts."

A study from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D.C., also found "no meaningful correlations between the availability of psychiatric hospital beds and either murders involving firearms or incarceration rates."

The New England Journal of Medicine published a report based on public opinion polling on gun issues, concluding that "gun policies with the highest support include those related to persons with mental illness."

National Public Radio also aired a program on the role of mental health care in reducing gun violence, with a participant expressing concern that this issue will "increasingly stigmatize" those who are mentally ill.


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