No quick fix for gun violence, but there is a way out

We must stop trying to control guns and begin helping people with mental illness. Courtesy oneillinstituteblog.
May 4, 2014

Op-ed by Channing Credeur, West Hollywood, California

I don’t come into contact with guns (thank goodness) very often while I’m doing social work with the homeless and mentally ill.

Guns and mental illness make a combustible and unpredictable combination. Photo courtesy  Treatment4addiction.com

Guns and mental illness make a combustible and unpredictable combination. Photo courtesy Treatment4addiction.com

So, as a graduate student studying for a master’s degree in social work, protecting an individual’s right to bear arms is not necessarily my first priority or even among the gamut of challenges I feel need conquering, but recent political conversations about gun control have made this issue impossible for me to ignore.

Social and traditional media makes events such as the Sandy Hook shooting much more visible than at any point in history, spreading information faster and instilling fear in a more insidious way.

However, relevant to the conversation is the fact that the United States is a consumer culture which requires to a nationwide desire for a quick fix to make us feel better when something scares us.

The advent of brand new gun control legislation as a reaction to gun violence is a direct spawn of the American desire to put a band- aid over peoples suffering.

gunpointWhile my intent is not to minimize the horrendous effects that gun violence has on both individuals’ and society’s morale alike, my intent is to place emphasis on the fact that stricter laws surrounding gun control is never going to solve the problem.

For a short period of time after these awful events occur, there are murmurs from voices speculating whether the shooter suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, antisocial personality disorder, bipolar, etc.

Those voices fade though, at the expense of the public’s safety as they are drowned by sounds of politicians’ voices echoing across the legislative track.

They start discussing stricter laws hoping to prohibit access to guns of a certain caliber and prohibit people with mental health backgrounds from getting access to guns.

While the voices of these figures sound soothing in the moment, they are focusing on breaches of our safety that have already happened, not the root of the problem.

depressedb450Unfortunately, these politicians are looking for votes, not to hit the grindstone and begin chiseling away the wall we have built around acknowledging the truth about mental illness and where it starts.

So as an individual looking out for the greater good, I see a need to start targeting this issue at the root, and it begins with prevention and early intervention.

We need to back initiatives, like the Mental Health in Schools Act of 2013 that protect the mental health of America’s youth.

We cannot ignore the fact that these tragedies could have been prevented if school age children did not have to reach thresholds of failure to be considered eligible for the existing subpar mental health services.

depressedcBy allowing America’s children to fall below these thresholds, we are forcing them to do irreversible damage to their lives, leading to more years of treatment than necessary with early intervention, more years of suffering than had to ever come to fruition, and last but not least, leaving room for the possibility of a few to do horrific damage to their communities.

If you live in Los Angeles and have avoided the gaze of the homeless guy you see on your way to work, you have another concrete example of the difference that early intervention and prevention could make.

Many of these individuals, like the perpetrators of violent massacres in events like Sandy Hook, grew up in average or low-income homes and were not provided access to mental health services that they needed as children.

depressedaIf legislation like the Mental Health in Schools Act of 2013 had been in place when they were young, they could have received access to a range of mental health services and preventative measures for their families that were not in place then and are not in place now.

Had they been provided this, they might have learned to manage their mental illnesses and might not be suffering from homelessness.

The point is that as a society, we are stakeholders with interest in the common good. If we hope to eradicate disasters occurring as a result of mental illness, we need to educate ourselves about the root of the problem and get behind initiatives like the Mental Health in Schools Act of 2013.

We need to quit focusing on a quick fix because the right to bear arms has nothing to do with the issue at hand. We need to be critical analysts of what these politicians are telling us and observe the nuances behind the problem and then hope to begin to make a difference.

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Channing Credeur is a 23 year-old female resident of West Hollywood. She is studying to get her master’s degree in social work at the University of Southern California. Her concentrated area of study is mental health and systems of recovery from mental illness.

We must stop trying to control guns and begin helping people with mental illness. Courtesy oneillinstituteblog.

We must stop trying to control guns and begin helping people with mental illness. Courtesy oneillinstituteblog.