A Mental Health Sufferer's Response to the Gun Lobby

At least 10 people are dead, 20 injured in a mass shooting at an Oregon community college, an occurrence President Obama noted is becoming increasingly routine in America.

What has also become routine is conservatives tripping over the dead bodies of victims before they have time to get cold to launch pre-emptive strikes on gun safety regulations in their attempt to detach guns from violent crimes committed with guns.

The right wing line has been to blame everything but easy access to guns - including the lack of enough guns - for gun violence. It's mental health this, mental health that.

Well, as someone who has been through counseling and depression (the clinical kind), I have often in my circle of friends and acquaintances  openly talked about the issues, the stigma and the experience of mental health. I have felt that I was lucky to be able to get care at a time when mental health parity was not the law of the land, and that countless individuals who suffer from mental health issues - whether temporary or over a great period of time - unfairly find themselves the subject of social stigma, familial ignorance, and national ridicule.

Frankly, the conservative response to gun violence by blaming it on mental health entirely - while without hint of irony pledging to repeal a law that brings a modicum of mental health parity in the American health insurance system for the first time ever - is nothing more than doubling down on scapegoating mental health sufferers by propagating social stereotypes that make mental health issues worse, not better.

Let me tell you something about people who have and who do suffer from mental health issues, and especially those bold enough to have sought treatment for it as we would a broken arm or a dislocated shoulder. We are not responsible for America's bloody trouble of gun violence. Guns are responsible for gun violence.

More precisely, the easy accessibility, availability and glamorization of deadly weapons is responsible for gun violence. The absurd notion that packing heat out of fear and paranoia about your neighbors and your government makes you some sort of a tough guy is what is to blame for the rampant, routine gun violence that is claiming the lives of everyone from 8 to 80.

The refusal of right wing politicians and an incessant gun lobby to mandate even the rudimentary background checks at all gun sales is responsible for the half million people that have died in gun violence since September 11, 2001 in America.

Those with serious mental health conditions are far more likely to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators, and aside from the "disturbed mind" monkier that should always accompany those who plan and execute mass slaughter of the innocent (funny how the right wing somehow doesn't view brown terrorists committing the same offense as mere mental health patients), the vast majority of perpetrators of gun violence are not mental health patients.

We can - in fact, it's long since time we did - stir the nation's conscience on mental health. Obamacare brought some modicum of parity in mental health in health insurance, but laws are not enough to change the deep-seated social stigma that keeps sufferers from seeking care, and keeps those closest to them from providing the support that they need.

The vast majority of people who have at some point sought mental health care as well as the vast majority of those currently seeking such care are more than capable of exercising full judgment, experiencing a full range of activity and entertainment, and contributing to society. The only difference is we have to think twice about sharing our experience of treatment than those who have or have had physical ailments.

We are not victims. We don't require pity, and we don't care to be society's scapegoat for violent crime. We are stronger than those who ridicule us. Personally, I can tell you categorically that I am better in tune with my own emotions, reactions and behavior for having gone through treatment for clinical depression some one decade ago - much better than many who can check off the box of never having sought treatment for medical care. One key example is my learned propensity for deference to facts rather than to hair-on-fire reactions.

We should be talking about mental health. We should be talking about to how to make it more accessible, how to eliminate social dogmatism around it, and how to inform our fellow Americans of the range of mental health issues, which is as varied as the range between the common cold and stage 4 cancer in physical health.

But that conversation has nearly nothing to do with violent crimes committed with firearms in America. There's a reason mass shootings are routine in America, and that reason isn't mental health. That reason is the firearms. That reason is Congress' refusal to renew the assault weapons ban. That reason is Congress' refusal even to mandate universal background checks for those seeking to purchase an entire storage locker full of these dangerous weapons, mostly to substitute for their... manhood.

I am tired of right wingers pretending like everyone with mental health issues is certifiable, and I am tired of liberals nodding their heads on TV in agreement or prefacing their comments about guns with the customary concern trolling about mental health. It's not just a distraction. It's offensive.

Let's stop pretending like we can fix gun violence without talking about guns.



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