Obama's approach to ending gun violence will rely on profiling of those with mental ilness

From the NY Times op ed blog: "The recent tragedies in Newtown and elsewhere are especially abhorrent to those of us in the mental health community, particularly since studies have shown that people with mental illness are 12 times more likely to be victims of violence, and no more likely to be violent, if they are not substance abusers.

Nonetheless, horrific acts of violence are inevitably associated with mental illnesses, often because the motivations for them seem unfathomable, and they end up getting sensationalized front page coverage."

We need more money, but we can also redirect money from outmoded approaches into community outreach and support services.

This has led to a wholesale vilification of conditions that 1 in 5 Americans share. That’s the sort of profiling that has been the fate of some racial or religious groups.

for more read here: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/01/17/can-mental-health-care-reduce-gun-violence/it-should...

One of the things I have learned in the aftermath of the shootings in Newtown is that the media prefers the sensational to the rational, and they prefer the old to the new. I learned only in the last few days that the research on which we are basing our response to mass murders is extremely limited research, as legislation was passed by Congress to limit any projects that might somehow address gun violence issues.

I already knew that while the groundswell of support was to extend background checks, there is no evidence that mental health professionals can predict this kind of horrific event. A well known forensic psychiatrist, Professor Paul Appelbaum of Columbia University, has reiterated this based on his own research.

In other words, even if a shooter is screened or diagnosed, there is little certainty that his caregiver will be able to predict gun violence by a patient.

Before we start profiling anyone with a history of mental illness, let's put the horse back in front of the cart. Let's get the funding of in depth research into the potential causes. Then address the rest of the legislation that is so desperately needed.

Above all, we need to stop and act rationally and not with a "mob mentality." Here is the take of this week's events from a civil rights attorney, Jim Gottstein:

In the rush to pretend to do something, but in the absence of the political will to do anything meaningful about gun violence, a mob mentality has developed to further restrict the rights of people diagnosed with mental illness and force them to endure harmful, counterproductive, psychiatric interventions. In other words, the only thing that all of the players at the table can agree to is, in effect, "Psychiatric Profiling."

New York rushed through a law that expands state and federal criminal databases of people labeled as mentally ill, unconnected to any actual crime or act of violence, and expanded outpatient commitment (forced drugging in the community).

As Gottstein points out, President Obama and Vice President Biden's proposed legislative package includes some of the same "profiling" measures as the NY legislation. Let's get the research done to see if such profiling will benefit anyone, as it certainly will make a class of citizens more stigmatized than ever.


Well put

Thanks for writing this.

Saw Jane Brown on NBC17 news at 7pm

James: Give her kudos for her discussion of the tie between gun violence and violent video games. Great interview!

I also looked closer at some articles posted over the past couple of days on the potential impact of funding by the Centers for Disease Control on causes of gun violence. I liked this one from the Washington Post the best, but those who are curious can google and find several others.

Back in 1996, Congress worked with the National Rifle Association to enact a law banning CDC funding for any research to “advocate or promote gun control.” Technically speaking, that wasn’t a ban on all gun research, but the law was vague enough that the centers shied away from the topic altogether. Funding for gun-violence research by the Centers for Disease Control dropped from $2.5 million per year in the early 1990s to a mere $100,000 per year today.

Since federal funding was the primary source of support for gun-violence research, the entire field withered as a result. Gun studies as a percentage of peer-reviewed research dropped 60 percent since 1996. Right now, there are only about a dozen researchers in the country whose primary focus is on preventing gun violence — despite the fact that more than 30,000 Americans were killed by guns in 2011.

Read the entire blog online here:

Martha Brock

NC mental health leaders on plans for a 'dangerous list'

SPECIAL NOTE: This article is written and submitted by Bonnie Jo Schell, Chairperson of the Board of Directors for NC CANSO, a mental health advocacy group.

Creation of ‘The Dangerous List’ is Scapegoating

President Obama’s Plan to protect US children and communities from random and planned violence includes one alarming proposal. The President wants all loopholes closed from state and national lists that could keep guns out of dangerous hands—the hands of those diagnosed to be mentally ill. NY quickly passed legislation to force professionals to notify an agent of the state if they could reasonably judge the patient as likely to harm herself or others, compromising patient-doctor confidentiality.

Keeping lists of people either receiving treatment or committed for danger to self or others or likelihood to functionally deteriorate is scapegoating the one out of every five Americans likely to need mental health treatment at some point in their lives. The List demonizes the “Other” as The Problem, in the same way that the rhetoric in the last election demonized 47% of our citizens receiving government benefits as being responsible for the high debt ceiling of the US. At least none of the mass murderers since Columbine were members of the 47%...

• Neither experts in criminal law nor psychiatrists can accurately predict the next violent offenders.
• Individuals with suicidal ideation will be careful to not mention it to a therapist or doctor for fear of being put on The List. Whose suicide rates have increased at an alarming rate? Teenagers and senior men, usually not in treatment. There are twice as many suicides among mental health patients as homicides.
• The chances that the list would contain more than 1% of the 5% of persons with mental illness who commit violent acts while using alcohol is slim.
• In these days of mass access to information “in the public domain,” lists of persons with mental illness are bound to be misused. Will Community Colleges and/or Universities check their applicants against The List? Will veterans with PTSD be turned down for further education? Will Homeland Security use The List at airports?
• Those considered to have the personality disorder of being a sociopath without any empathy for others may never be on The List unless a parent puts them on when they kill animals as a child, store up grudges, blaming others, and are socially rejected from groups they wish to belong to...

read more at http://nccanso.org/2013/01/21/creation-of-the-dangerous-list-is-scapegoating/

Martha Brock