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This diary is part of the Firearm Law and Policy group's ongoing series Guns and Suicide.  Previous installments of this series can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

This series has focused on one specific aspect of American gun violence: gun suicide.  Gun suicides account for the majority (61%) of all fatal shootings in America today.  But gun suicides rarely receive attention in the American media or the halls of congress.  Public mass shooting events - such as school shooting and theater shootings – do get a lot of media attention, though such mass shooting events are relatively rare and account for only a minor fraction of the over one hundred thousand Americans shot every year.

Because of long-standing associations of suicide with psychiatric disorders, and because some of the public mass shooting events have been done by people diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, mental illness has taken a prominent place in public discussions of gun violence in America.  Some Americans have blamed all of gun violence on the mentally ill.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the NRA – America's premier lobbying group for the gun industry - suggests the only way to reduce gun violence in America is to a) sell more guns and bullets, and b) address issues of mental health and illness.  

Gun violence in America is a complex problem and multi-factorial in nature.  Blaming all of gun violence on the mentally ill is both wrong logically, and a derogatory insult to the millions of Americans who suffer from mental illness.  And while psychology (the study of mental processes) and psychiatry (the study of mental disorders and their treatment) have both helped us to understand and ameliorate a variety of social problems, neither psychology nor psychiatry alone can solve the problem of gun violence in America.

Here is why:

1) Blaming gun violence on the mentally ill mischaracterizes and stigmatizes mental illness.  The vast majority of psychiatric illness (depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, etc) tend to make people shy and retiring, not explosively aggressive.  It is a gross mischaracterization to suggest that everyone with a psychiatric illness is a ticking time bomb ready to explode into violence.  Such ideas further stigmatize mental illness.

2) Blaming gun violence on the mentally ill has a chilling effect on those needing or seeking help.  Suggesting publicly that everyone who goes to a psychiatrist's office is a ticking time bomb of violence and should have their names entered into a national database for federal scrutiny and/or suffer a further erosion of their civil rights is a good way to make people avoid the psychiatrists' offices.  

3) Suicides and school shootings are not diagnostic of psychiatric illness.  By itself, using a gun to kill oneself, or to shoot first-graders in a public school is not diagnostic of any psychiatric illness.  Certainly, using a gun to kill oneself or to shoot first-graders fits our colloquial definition of “crazy”, and such behaviors may occur in a variety of different psychiatric disorders.  But in the absence of any other signs or symptoms, such behaviors of themselves do not qualify a person for any specific psychiatric diagnosis under the formal criteria by which psychiatrists establish a diagnosis.  The proper and accurate diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder does not depend on any one particular act, but rather on a multitude of behaviors displayed repeatedly over a period of time.

4) The limited powers of psychiatry.  When it comes to suicide or violence, psychiatry has no magic bullets.  Psychiatrists determine the likelihood that an individual may be contemplating hurting themselves or others by sitting down with the individual and asking them about their plans – a process that can take hours.  When a potentially dangerous person is identified, violence is prevented by simply watching that person and keeping them away from dangerous objects and situations.  Keeping a person from dangerous objects and situations may mean involuntary treatment: a loss of freedoms and liberty for someone who may well have no prior record of wrongdoings.  The case of James Holmes - the shooter at the Aurora, CO. theater - is illustrative.  Mr. Holmes had been seeing a psychiatrist who became convinced that Mr. Holmes was becoming homicidal.  The psychiatrist reported her concerns to the authorities (as the psychiatrist is required to do by law), but could do nothing more to intervene.  One month later, Mr. Holmes committed his act of mass violence.  Even in this case where a psychiatrist was involved prior to the act of violence, and whose clinical judgment was that there was a good chance that violence could occur, the psychiatrist could do nothing by herself to prevent the violence.  Psychiatry may be able to identify some of the people who later become violent; doing so accurately in a nation of over 300 million is almost impossible.  What then happens to those so identified is a social and legal problem of Herculean proportions.

5) Any fixes to a broken mental health system will require years to effect changes in overall levels of gun violence.  Fixing a broken mental health system will require changes in private and government funding, advances in clinical research, and a new attitude balancing medical necessity and profits among clinicians and hospital administrators.  All of this could take years and even decades before any differences in violent behaviors among Americans are observed. None of the over 100,000 Americans who will be shot this year want to wait that long.

The gun industry lays the blame for the extreme amounts of gun violence in America squarely at the hands of the mentally ill.  From a recent NRA newsletter:
“Since 1966, the National Rifle Association has urged the federal government to address the problem of mental illness and violence. [….] The NRA will support any reasonable step to fix America’s broken mental health system without intruding on the constitutional rights of Americans.”  (Source – NRA Institute for Legislative Action)
From an article in The Economist:
“(Wayne LaPierre) talks of improving mental-health treatment, but then uses the harshest possible language to describe the mentally ill, telling NBC: “We have no national database of these lunatics.  We have a completely cracked mentally ill system (sic!) that’s got these monsters walking the streets” […] “They’re not serious about fixing the mental-health system. They’ve emptied the institutions and every police officer knows dangerous people out there on the streets right now. They shouldn’t be on the streets: they’ve stopped taking their medicine and yet they’re out there walking around...The powerful elites aren’t talking about limiting their capacity for protection. They’ll have all the security they want... Our only means of security is the second amendment. When the glass breaks in the middle of the night, we have the right to defend ourselves” (Source: The Economist).
So, according to the NRA, a major advocacy and lobbying group for the gun industry, the best approach to reduce gun violence in America is to fix the “completely cracked mentally ill system”.  At the same time, the gun industry hopes to continue the quick and easy selling of lots of guns and ammo to any and all Americans.  However, some hypocrisy is necessary to simultaneously maintain these two positions.  This hypocrisy becomes apparent when one looks not at what is being said by gun lobbying groups, but instead when one looks at their actions.  

Recently, the NRA supported a bill proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) that will allow people who have been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital to buy guns immediately after the commitment order expires, and any guns that had been seized at the time of hospitalization would have to be returned.. The bill further specifies that gun rights should be restored for people who have been adjudicated mentally incompetent (Source: Talking Points

So while the NRA is blaming the mentally ill for gun violence, the NRA is also advocating that gun retailers should be allowed to sell guns to people who have been determined to be a danger to themselves and/or to others.  In addition, while the NRA has been resisting any effort to register or even count gun owners, the NRA has advocated - with some success - for a national database of people with psychiatric illnesses (Source: WaPo).

Fixing a broken mental health care system
Currently, it is estimated that over 13 million Americans suffer from a serious mental illness.  We as a nation should, of course, do everything we can do to provide the very best care and treatment for those who suffer from mental illness.  Mental health services should be readily accessible and affordable to everyone who needs them.  Psychiatry has always been the forgotten step-child of American health care.  Most states are wrestling with large budget deficits, and across the country, public programs for the mentally ill have been cut deeply, effecting potentially millions of patients.  The care and treatment for those with emotional illness should be improved because we are the richest nation on the planet, and we have the resources to provide the best possible care for those among us who are ill.  This is what a loving God entreats and challenges us to do.  

We as a nation should improve the care and treatment of mental illness.  Not because that will solve the problem of gun violence, but because it is better for our neighbors and communities

If one were to actually consult with psychiatrists about the problem of gun violence in America, we see that psychiatry has useful solutions to the problem of gun suicides, but these solutions are too often simply ignored.  One would learn that scientists have shown repeatedly that there is a 2-10 fold increase in the risk of suicides in home where there is a gun, compared to home where there are no guns.  And that this increased risk for suicide remains even after controlling for the occurrence of depression and thoughts of suicide among study participants (here, here, here, here, here, and here).  One would learn that psychiatrists recognize two general methods to reduce the incidence of suicide: a) reduce the number of suicide attempts by identifying and treating those people contemplating suicide; and b) reduce the possibility that a suicide attempt is lethal, by removing lethal means from people thinking about suicide.  The gun industry suggests we focus solely on the first method, and ignore the second method.  Yet, research studies have shown that reducing access to lethal means is a highly effective strategy for preventing suicide deaths.

The gun industry places the blame for American gun violence squarely in the laps of the mentally ill.  This is a good strategy for the gun industry: suicides and school shootings certainly look “crazy”, rare is the public figure who speaks out on behalf of the mentally ill, and meanwhile, the gun industry is free to pursue greater profits by selling more guns and ammo.  But scape-goating the mentally ill as the sole cause of high levels of gun violence is not only offensively disparaging to those who suffer from mental illness.  The prescription to "fix America's broken mental health system" is too vague to yield actionable solutions.  The problem of gun violence in America needs purposeful action, not empty rhetoric

The Daily Kos Firearms Law and Policy group studies actions for reducing firearm deaths and injuries in a manner that is consistent with the current Supreme Court interpretation of the Second Amendment. If you would like to write about firearms law please send us a Kosmail.

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Originally posted to Firearms Law and Policy on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 09:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA) and Shut Down the NRA.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I heard a story on NPR (7+ / 0-)

    Farmers and their families were killing themselves with chemicals found on the farms . The chemicals were replaced with less or non deadly chemicals and the death rate from suicide attempts went down . If a person tries to kill themself and fails then they can get the mental health care they need . If on the other hand they attempt suicide and actually kill themself , then there is no chance they well get the treatment .

    Did you ever read about the link between buying a gun and suicide , suicide by any method , not just via the gun ?

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

    by indycam on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 09:16:23 AM PST

  •  The way LaPierre speaks of the mentally ill (14+ / 0-)

    makes my stomach turn. I'm glad The Economist pointed this out.

    As a mentally ill person, this is one of the hardest parts of the debate over guns in our society for me.

    P.S. I am not a crackpot.

    by BoiseBlue on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 09:23:16 AM PST

    •  It's pretty sickening. (13+ / 0-)

      LaPierre's language about mental illness is pretty sickening - and I mean that in ALL senses of the wording.

      I myself find such language very offensive; that was one of the motivators for me to write this piece.

      Sadly, people who struggle with any illness - physical or mental - are made vulnerable by their illness, and then become the target of opportunists of all kinds.

      LaPierre, the NRA, and the gun industry as a whole are such opportunists.  They scape-goat the mentally ill for their own further profit.

      It will not stop until we speak out against it.

      "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

      by Hugh Jim Bissell on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 09:43:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  What if -- you were actually the sane one? (6+ / 0-)

      Just saying~It's easy to scapegoat the kind and compassionate, they even think it's fun I swear

      LaPierre has no stature or credibility in discussing mental health, and it's frightening to think his views would be considered a measure of health

      He should be loudly silenced by the professionals

    •  LaPierre's a conservative (0+ / 0-)

      and the mentally ill are simply undesirables.  But LaPierre doesn't matter.  Regardless of the insidious source of his stance, it's useful in that it will eventually help save lives.

      •  Not sure I understand (6+ / 0-)

        I'm not sure I understand.

        Are you saying that Mr. LaPierre's assertion - actually the official position of the NRA, not just Mr. LaPierre's words - that gun violence in the USA is due to a broken mental health system is a statement that will somehow eventually save lives?

        I suggest that Mr. LaPierre's assertion that gun violence in the USA is due to a broken mental health system will ultimately lead to more gun violence and more lives lost.  Because in my opinion, the root cause of gun violence in the USA is the free and easy availability of guns - and while we are "fixing a broken mental health system" we are doing nothing to reduce the free and easy availability of guns.  More guns, more freely and easily available will lead to more shootings and more gun deaths, suicidal and otherwise.

        "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

        by Hugh Jim Bissell on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 02:46:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Walk and chew gum at the same time (0+ / 0-)

          Today we have a system which does not prevent the mentally ill from acquiring firearms.  LaPierre, as insensitive as he his, has basically admitted this is a serious problem.  It should be easier, provided there are no other significant obstruction, to garner support for legislation like New Jersey's A3667 (which unfortunately seems to have languished after its introduction).

          None of this requires abandoning gun control on other fronts.

          •  Dangerous Presumption Here (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Let us keep firmly in mind that mental illness and shooting someone are two distinctly different things.

            I have tried to say in my article above that it is unfairly presumptuous to pretend that everyone who shoots someone has a mental illness, and grossly insulting to people who have mental illness to presume that everyone with a mental illness is going to explode violently.

            I suggest that the problem is that EVERYONE, ill or not, can easily acquire firearms.

            "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

            by Hugh Jim Bissell on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 06:42:28 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  No presumption at all (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Sharon Wraight

              I never once said that everyone with a mental illness is a danger to themselves or others.  That determination should be left up to a professional.  That said, what's the problem with getting psychiatric clearance to purchase a weapon?

              •  On what basis should a psychiatrist decide this? (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                LilithGardener, Sharon Wraight

                The problem is that psychiatrists are not omniscient - psychiatrists can not tell us who is and who is not going to be violent with a gun.

                The case of James Holmes is easy - he would tell his psychiatrist he wanted to kill her and other people.  But what if the psychiatrist was interviewing Michael Dunn?  Mr. Dunn has no history of psychosis, so he might pass a psychiatric review with flying colors - and still shoot a black youth in a drunken rage.

                How much time should a psychiatrist devote to determining if someone is ok to carry a weapon?  15 minutes? An hour? Five hour-long sessions?  Should the review session include administering the Addiction Severity Index? or the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale?

                And if some 30-40% of gun sales occur privately without a licensed gun dealer, who is going to assure all those gun buyers pass psychiatric review?

                "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

                by Hugh Jim Bissell on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 03:34:28 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Probably on the same basis (0+ / 0-)

                  and for the same duration a psychiatrist requires when recommending involuntary hold.  This isn't exactly new ground.

                  Again, nothing about this proposal requires foregoing other avenues of gun control.  

      •  How? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I don't understand your assertion. What makes you believe that his rhetoric will save lives?

        P.S. I am not a crackpot.

        by BoiseBlue on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 03:40:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Skimmed the diary so apologies if you've addressed (5+ / 0-)

    I'm also assuming that you don't support a blanket ban on guns, OR that you think that's so improbable that it's not worth considering.

    Given that:

    1. What's the line on restricting access based on Dx'd mental illness/disorder? Obviously everyone who is mentally ill isn't a what about depression, mild anxiety, ADHD, etc?

    2. Would waiting periods be a good solution to gun suicides? It wouldn't keep people who already own guns from using one, but do you know of statistics related to people specifically going out and buying guns to kill themselves?
    Long-term mental illness isn't the only cause of suicide...things like chronic pain, immediate emotional damage because of a death, divorce, etc could also drive people to a snap decision.

    While you dream of Utopia, we're here on Earth, getting things done.

    by GoGoGoEverton on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 09:26:15 AM PST

    •  In response: (10+ / 0-)

      In response:
      1) I do not support a blanket ban on guns.  I think such a ban would lead to an underground market and continuation of many of the same problems (tho' a blanket ban would allow the authorities to remove guns from people who shoot themselves, threaten others with their guns, or are the source of accidental shootings and other irresponsible gun behaviors).

      2) Clearly, some people with mental disorders should not be near guns - James Holmes is a good example.  Just as clearly, some people with mental disorders can use guns safely and properly.  And just as clearly, people change, so that safe gun owners become unsafe, and vice versa.  I suggest that restricting access to guns should depend on the person, not the diagnosis.

      3) While no waiting period is going to eliminate all criminal shootings, no waiting period is going to eliminate all gun suicides.  It does make sense to have a waiting period between purchasing a gun and taking possession of a gun (in my opinion, 30 days is about right), because yes, people do go out and buy guns specifically to carry out a planned crime, and to carry out a planned suicide.

      "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

      by Hugh Jim Bissell on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 10:22:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I am glad you mentioned this... (9+ / 0-)
      could also drive people to a snap decision.
      It's one of the most important things that can be said- people make snap decisions.  

      They get mad at a kid because he's playing music too loudly, or because he's the wrong skin tone, or because they threw popcorn at him (just to name a few more publicized incidents....)  They make these decisions and it has life altering consequences. Anyone... and I do mean anyone, can make a really stupid, really bad, snap decision; that includes suicide and other "spur of the moment" choices with a firearm.

      It is why I, and others like me, say, "You are a responsible, law-abiding gun owner, until you aren't."

      One moment of anger, or anguish, or despair...  It can happen to the most happy, well-adjusted person on the plant, to the most emotional, mal-adjusted, and unstable one.  

      Snap decisions aren't "mental illness" they are characteristics of the human race, something every last person on this planet makes at one time or another.  

      This is why I fight so hard to end the proliferation of guns and to craft new restrictions and limitations on the ownership of guns.  

      People make snap decisions.

      You can get animals addicted to a harmful substance, you can dissect their brains, but you throw their own feces back at them, and suddenly you're unprofessional. -Amy Farrah Fowler/The Big Bang Theory -7.50, -5.03

      by dawgflyer13 on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 10:32:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hmm! Impulse control exists too. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TRPChicago, oldpotsmuggler

        It varies a lot from person to person. Low levels are not necessarily a mental illness but I'd be open to having that be a disqualification for carrying a gun in public.

        Anyone considering a dog for personal safety should treat that decision as seriously as they would buying a gun.

        by Dogs are fuzzy on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 12:09:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You wouldn't need waiting periods (0+ / 0-)

      if you had documented psychiatric sign-off.  As for the specific conditions, would you settle for an overall determination of "danger to oneself or others?"

      •  Not really practiable (4+ / 0-)

        it is not really practicable to ask everyone seeking to buy a gun to get a psychiatric consult.  It would be hugely expensive and time-consuming.

        And then there is the problem of false-positives/false-negatives in the diagnosis of mental disorders.  Errors either way may be deadly.

        "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

        by Hugh Jim Bissell on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 01:28:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Emergency department MHSA visits (0+ / 0-)

          alone amount to some 11 million in 2007, or the same number of NICS checks (PDF) in the same year.  And while we can't assume the cost of an as of yet undesigned scheme would be negligible, there's no reason to believe it would be prohibitive.  Especially since a downcheck would require either an appeal for relief or, if it stands, would attach years of prohibition.

          Right now, there is no check for mental wellness prior to purchase absent an adjudication that appears on the record; introducing one can't possibly make things worse.

          •  So you want to violate HIPPA laws? (3+ / 0-)

            Those emergency room visits are confidential for a reason. We would either have to maintain a database of every person who was taken to the ER for mental health reasons (a gross violation of privacy) or include medical records in the background check that are currently performed (another gross violation).

            P.S. I am not a crackpot.

            by BoiseBlue on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 03:44:57 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  I can tell you (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IndieGuy, moviemeister76, WakeUpNeo

      that when my father was sick with the disease which eventually took him from us, he asked me more than once to buy him a gun so he could commit suicide with it.

      "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

      by raptavio on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 01:58:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  ^^ This. ^^ (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        raptavio, WakeUpNeo, ThatSinger

        For the record, I lost both a brother and a nephew to suicide, and my dad died six months after the stroke that left him paralyzed. I have a sense of where you're coming from. If my dad could have, I think he would have chosen suicide. In a civilized and just world, I don't know - maybe he would have had the option. I'm sorry for what your dad, family and you went through, raptavio.

        •  Thanks. (6+ / 0-)

          I don't like guns for a number of reasons irrespective of my political beliefs. But nobody should have to suffer the loss of a loved one to suicide.

          Sorry for what you, too, had to endure, IndieGuy.

          "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

          by raptavio on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 02:43:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, but.... (4+ / 0-)

          Certainly there are illnesses that are painful and which no possibility of effective treatment exists.  In those cases, talking about the end of life is a compassionate way to proceed - a way to proceed that respects the wishes of the person with the illness and the wishes of family members and loved ones.

          But, leaving an un-announced, unwanted, and bloody mess for family members and loved ones to clean up and agonize over for the remainder of their days respects no one, and does a huge harm to those family members.  It is incredibly violent, and kinda like a final "F U" to those survivors - there is nothing peaceful or loving in that behavior.  

          If someone wants an "easy way out" when they are actually on their way "out", I can totally agree and respect that.  In which case, planning that way out with your family and medical care givers can avoid the bloody mess, and the years of emotional turmoil in the survivors.  

          "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

          by Hugh Jim Bissell on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 02:55:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Had a gun suicide in family 2 weeks ago- He (15+ / 0-)

    didn't leave a note; We do know he owned lots of guns, had many health issues, was 74 and with the financial mess, unpaid bills unopened mail etc., we're guessing that  along with a history of bi-polar and depression that there may have been some early dementia.

    The body was not discovered for a couple of days, so the physical mess, on top of this emotional tragedy is beyond traumatic.

    He was a proud GOP NRA card carrier and hunter.

    But the unknowns will effect his son forever.

    "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

    "It's said that the honest man has nothing to hide. Not true. The honest man has to hide himself, because honest men are the prime targets of those who lie."

    by roseeriter on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 09:30:16 AM PST

    •  I'm sorry if this article is painful (14+ / 0-)

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

      I'm sorry if this article brings up painful thoughts and memories for you and yours.

      There are not too many helpful words I can say to you at this time.  The death of your family members in such circumstances sucks.  You have every right to feel sad, angry, horrified, exhausted, blasé, uncaring, unconcerned, or whatever. At times like this, our human emotions go all over the place.

      I will tell you that you and your family are not alone.  That other families have gone through this experience.  Many people losing a family member to suicide do not speak about it, so it may seem that your family has been singled out.  Yet, even though there may be a public silence on the issue, you are not alone.  

      "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

      by Hugh Jim Bissell on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 09:57:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The family thinks the guns made it too easy (11+ / 0-)

        and without a note, there's the guilt-factor of how did all of us miss the pain he had to have been in.

        This is an in- law as my immediate family is not a gun-owning family so its doubly painful, because we thought we'd never experience gun violence, and this kind of suicide is violent.

        I do appreciate your response. And as you said, there are no words. We're not sure how to tell the grandson. I don't believe in keeping family secrets or lying about such things, as they IMHO just prolong the pain cycle and trauma.

        "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

        "It's said that the honest man has nothing to hide. Not true. The honest man has to hide himself, because honest men are the prime targets of those who lie."

        by roseeriter on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 10:09:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  May I suggest (6+ / 0-)

          I have buried three immediate family members and lost my 3-yr. old daughter in a divorce.  I know something about losing loved ones.

          In my experience, guilty thought and feelings ("I shoulda done this..., I wish I had done that...., etc") are part of normal human grieving.  Grieving is not just tears and boo-hoo-hoo.  So when you find yourself with guilty thoughts and feelings, this is your grief expressing itself in the language that grief sometimes speaks.  Your thoughts and feelings DO NOT MEAN that you did something wrong or neglected to do something important.  

          Where children are concerned, age-appropriate information is important.  For very young children, simply telling them that grandpa has died is enough (and you will have your hands plenty full just talking about death and its meaning).  Older children can be told more.  The specific details can be left for a later discussion, when the child is ready to understand and absorb those details.

          Here's wishing you happier days soon.

          "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

          by Hugh Jim Bissell on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 10:38:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you again for sharing this painful saga, (0+ / 0-)

          in your diary and your comments on it.

          You'll be in my thoughts for a long time.

    •  I'm not good at this (6+ / 0-)

      Condolences. I've been through a suicide in the family and it's really beyond words.

      Anyone considering a dog for personal safety should treat that decision as seriously as they would buying a gun.

      by Dogs are fuzzy on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 12:12:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It amazes me yet that the NRA has so effectively (8+ / 0-)

    sold the belief that gun violence is due largely to mental illness. The public has bought it, and the media has bought it, whereas the facts belie this erroneous belief. The data are quite clear on this issue that a only a small portion of gun violence can be attributed to mental illness per se.

    We need an equally effective campaign to counter this erroneous belief but it is a very hard sell. Without the mainstream media, it will be more than difficult.

    "There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats ..." - Kenneth Grahame -

    by RonK on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 10:01:39 AM PST

    •  Neither the media nor the NRA are fit (7+ / 0-)

      To make such statements, they are causing great harm

      •  True but at least the media could report the facts (4+ / 0-)

        as known by the professionals rather than the lies as spewed by the NRA.

        "There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats ..." - Kenneth Grahame -

        by RonK on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 10:49:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The MSM thinks journalism is the same (2+ / 0-)

          as being an editor on a modern day "reality show."

          This better be good. Because it is not going away.

          by DerAmi on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 10:57:29 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I'm just pissed at the media for their (0+ / 0-)

          Weekly headlines on health issues, one week they're  'r̶e̶c̶o̶m̶m̶e̶n̶d̶i̶n̶g̶' selling some latest greatest headline news based on a misquoted narrow piece of information, because it grabbed 2 minutes of  attention ... and then ... it turns out to be harmful

          I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for MSM to have even a halfway reasonable discussion on mental health, I mean sure maybe it could happen but it takes depth, like you said, but maybe cool their heels a bit and attempt serious discussion

          But what the NRA is doing is so much worse, they try to grab the headlines and conflate important issues they have no qualifications to discuss, and an issue that carries great weight for many, those having admitted mental health issues into their lives, and those having suffered loss from guns

          People who pursue or have pursued mental health treatment are the healthy ones ... a little counselling never hurt anyone, and for those getting psychiatric care I imagine it's most often a good thing

          Self-serving sociopaths and megalomaniacs are far more deadly and dangerous

          So, for those reasons, I think cw's pee test is a good idea

          -- much more practical and probably an order of magnitude more effective --

    •  Not quite so clear and obvious (5+ / 0-)

      The gun industry and the NRA have very loud and far-reaching microphones.  Their messages do get spread broadly.

      Many people - more responsible people in government, in law enforcement, in healthcare, and on Main St. USA - understand the gun industry's message for the horse pucky it is.  Sadly, these people either do not have access to a far-reaching microphone, or choose not to access one.

      Politicians could be using their "bully pulpit" to bring a more reasonable and responsible message to Americans.  But that would mean saying things publicly that the gun industry dislikes, and politicians in general do not like to publicly gainsay the gun industry.

      And you will notice it is difficult to shoe-horn the message in the above diary into a 2-3 minute CNN story.  The fiction is much easier to conveniently packaged than the facts.

      "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

      by Hugh Jim Bissell on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 10:55:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  We "bought" the connection of guns to mental... (3+ / 0-)

      ... illness because "we all know", for instance ... You gotta be crazy to walk into a movie theatre [or elementary school or mall or a political gathering or your family's living room] and start shooting. No sane person does such a thing. We readily equate "crazy" with mental illness - no leap required.

      The first legally accepted test of sanity is whether a person knows right from wrong:

      ... at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from a disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.
      Pretty unsophisticated, wasn't it! But variations of this classic are still the law in many, perhaps most, jurisdictions. So why should we wonder why the press and the public confuse sanity with massacres by gun? With gun violence against loved ones or oneself?

      No matter what the underlying reality is in a given case, no matter how much violence by gun is done because of snap decisions, anger and frustration, pent-up emotions, vigilantism, deliberate planning to deal out death ... we just "know" a person who kills another must be crazy.

      Ronk, LaPierre will tout it for all he's worth. (!) About all we can do is set the discussion straight - as HJB has done so well in his series of suicide diaries - when we encounter the LaPierre meme.

      2014 is HERE. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

      by TRPChicago on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 12:50:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  So, obviously, the solution is for all gun owners (6+ / 0-)

    and prospective gun owners, to be subject to mental illness screenings before purchasing a gun and every three years thereafter to make sure they are still healthy enough to own deadly weapons.
    Hey, if the NRA wants to claim it's all about Mental Illness, OK, let's deal with that. Test anyone who owns or wants to own a gun to make sure they are fit.
    If you have a Commercial Driver's License, you are subject to rigorous testing, including surprise pee tests to make sure that you are still a safe driver. We don't trust people to stay safe otherwise.
    Extend that kind of scrutiny to firearms owners.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 10:06:43 AM PST

  •  who is mentally disabled here (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Miggles, WakeUpNeo, LilithGardener
    Boy Suspended for Finger as Gun
    Well, this seems a little unnecessary. A school in Ohio suspended a 10-year-old boy for three days because he pointed his fingers in the shape of a gun and directed it at another student. ”I was just playing around,” said Entingh, a fifth-grader at Devonshire Alternative Elementary School. “People play around like this a lot at my school.” The child who had the “gun” was pointed at didn’t even notice it; a teacher did.

    Read it at Columbus Dispatch

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 10:56:52 AM PST

  •  Be proud: diary is DK at its best (6+ / 0-)

    So call the NRA's bluff. Demand that they sign on to a bill to fund the community mental health centers that were supposed to take care of the people turfed out of the institutions.

    I don't believe it would reduce gun violence but it would help lots of people who need it.

    If the NRA can be maneuvered into spending their money and influence on something positive that would be delightful.

    Anyone considering a dog for personal safety should treat that decision as seriously as they would buying a gun.

    by Dogs are fuzzy on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 12:20:05 PM PST

  •  Additional information (5+ / 0-)

    Washington Post on racial disparities in gun homicides and suicides (related article):

    Gun deaths are shaped by race in America. Whites are far more likely to shoot themselves, and African Americans are far more likely to be shot by someone else.
  •  Thank you for this (5+ / 0-)

    Really tired of people blaming gun violence, bad behavior, etc on mental illness.

    Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

    by moviemeister76 on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 03:28:51 PM PST

  •  Three recent NIH/NIMH studies about suicide: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sharon Wraight, LilithGardener

    Suicide in the military: Army-NIH funded study points to risk and protective factors

    For Immediate Release: Monday, March 3, 2014

    The largest study of mental health risk and resilience ever conducted among U.S. military personnel today released its first findings related to suicide attempts and deaths in a series of three JAMA Psychiatry articles. Findings from The Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS) include: the rise in suicide deaths from 2004 to 2009 occurred not only in currently and previously deployed soldiers, but also among soldiers never deployed; nearly half of soldiers who reported suicide attempts indicated their first attempt was prior to enlistment; and soldiers reported higher rates of certain mental disorders than civilians, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), intermittent explosive disorder (recurrent episodes of extreme anger or violence), and substance use disorder.

    “These studies provide knowledge on suicide risk and potentially protective factors in a military population that can also help us better understand how to prevent suicide in the public at large,” said National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. NIMH is part of the National Institutes of Health.

    Although historically, the suicide death rates in the U.S. Army have been below the civilian rate, the suicide rate in the U.S. Army began climbing in the early 2000s, and by 2008, it exceeded the demographically matched civilian rate (20.2 suicide deaths per 100,000 vs. 19.2). Concerns about this increase led to a partnership between the Army and the NIMH to identify risks...


    Predictors of suicide and accident death in the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS). Schoenbaum M, Kessler RC, Gilman SE, Colpe LJ, Heeringa SG, Stein MB, Ursano RJ, Cox KL. JAMA Psychiatry, March 3, 2014.

    Prevalence and correlates of suicidal behavior among soldiers: Results from the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS). Nock MK, Stein MB, Heeringa SG, Ursano RJ, Colpe LJ, Fullerton CS, Hwang I, Naifeh JA, Sampson NA, Schoenbaum M, Zaslavsky AM, Kessler RC. JAMA Psychiatry, March 3, 2014.

    Thirty-day prevalence of DSM-IV mental disorders among non-deployed soldiers in the U.S. Army: results from the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS). Kessler RC, Heeringa SG, Stein MB, Colpe LJ, Fullerton CS, Hwang I, Naifeh JA, Nock MK, Petukhova M, Sampson NA, Schoenbaum M, Zaslavsky AM, Ursano RJ. JAMA Psychiatry, March 3, 2014.

    Grant number: 5U01MH087981-05

    •  Thanks for the references (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LilithGardener, WakeUpNeo

      Thank you for posting those references.

      I want to review those articles.

      "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

      by Hugh Jim Bissell on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 03:37:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for a well-written diary & discussion. T&R (0+ / 0-)

        I disagree with a couple of your points.

        You make a couple straw-man arguments that I think weaken your case. No credible person says either that:

        everyone with a psychiatric illness is a ticking time bomb ready to explode into violence.
        nor that
        everyone who goes to a psychiatrist's office is a ticking time bomb of violence
        Those are straw-men, and not worthy of you.

        The closest I can think of would be if someone (who?) says that anyone who visits any mental health professional should have restrictions imposed on their gun-buying or ownership. But that's not the same thing. E.g., hypothetically if data somehow proved that: a) the statistical odds of committing gun-violence are e.g. tenfold for those who see mental health professionals, and b) that these professionals have no way of identifying who is at risk (as you say), and c) there's no other way that identifies this higher-risk group, then some might draw the conclusion. Not because "every such person is a time bomb," but because the higher odds pose a risk to society and there's (currently) no other way to identify them. But I don't think that data exists, I think #a and #c are false.

        On a more philosophical level, there's an old discussion about whether or not all murderers are mentally ill. Your point #3 asserts, without much discussion, they are not. I disagree, fundamentally. Everyone who shoots innocent first-graders is mentally ill. This single act does prove it. I'm willing to bet that most people agree. If psychiatry doesn't recognize this, it is a clarion demonstration of the limitations of the field (which you allude to in #4, but don't go far enough).

        Maybe I'm mistaken, but you seem to be relying on the field of psychiatry (and perhaps the DSM-5?) to define what is or is not mental illness. This is not a helpful constraint, although psychiatrists would certainly like to claim all mental illness as their turf, alone. Durkheim, among many others (sociologists, political scientists, public intellectuals, novelists, clerics, evolutionary biologists, social critics, gadflies, RNs, MSWs, parents, victims, journalists, philosophers, economists, etc.), would disagree. You dismiss as "colloquial" (the classic academic put-down!) the obvious conclusion that "shooting first-graders" fits our definition of "crazy." Well, if that be colloquial then it's time for psychiatry to 'git back on the couch and reflect on the "formal criteria by which psychiatrists establish a diagnosis," until it conforms with common sense. If this necessitates adding a section for e.g. mass-murderers to DSM-6, to establish the "proper and accurate diagnosis" to "qualify such a person for a specific psychiatric disorder," then so be it -- © I'll expect a cite to this comment. ;-)  

        Do you agree that society should stigmatize mass-shooters? That seems like a wise collective impulse, to me. (I don't care what psychiatrists say, I'm asking you as a Kossack.)

        Likewise, DSM-5 does list "suicidal behavior disorder" as a "condition for further study," and most people recognize suicide as a (rather final!) symptom of mental illness. Again, if the APA does not, this says something about the APA, not about suicide.

        (Obviously, we're not speaking of rare cases such as informed end-of-life decisions due to terminal illness; nor some construct under which e.g. shooting a first-grade Adolph Hitler would prevent the Holocaust.)

        Again, I agree with many of your points; here I've just listed points of disagreement. (My first draft of this comment got deleted by a keyboard error, alas!)

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