Wednesday, 28 March 2018

What about the people who need help? – Guns and Mental Illness Part 4

This post is part of a series.  Part 1 is here. Other links will be added to Part 1 as they’re published.

Another problem with an information pipeline from your therapist to the police is that people already withhold information from their mental health providers because they don’t want to be committed, or because they have other worries.  Even though the conditions under which a therapist is required to break confidentiality are pretty narrow, there are plenty of people who avoid therapy all together to maintain their privacy.

The first time I applied for a background check that included a consent form from my therapist, I was freaking terrified that some bit of information I disclosed would screw up my background check. And I have anxiety disorder—one of most common, least stigmatized, best understood mental health diagnoses out there. Granted, that level of worry is itself a symptom of the anxiety disorder, but expecting people with mental illnesses to act like they don’t have mental illnesses is kind of ridiculous, especially when you’re making it harder for them to get help.

If I were to start experiencing scarier, more significant symptoms, I would definitely be concerned about whether disclosing them to my therapist would impact my job. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I *wouldn’t* get them addressed, but it would give me pause. If we’re going to add *more of that,* we need to be really sure it’s worth it. Especially when, as I mentioned in the last post, mental health is only a tiny sliver of the problem.

This is magnified when you talk about taking people’s guns away, particularly with groups of people who are already clinging to their guns like they live in a warzone. I mean, the NRA is literally taking potshots at teenagers with PTSD because it might threaten their supporters’ ability to sell as many guns as humanly possible. “They’re coming for your guns!” is the best, most successful scare tactic the NRA has, and an awful lot of gun owners are *terrified* of this possibility. It’s one of the reasons mass shootings are such a big moneymaker for gun manufacturers, and therefore for the NRA by virtue of donations. Every time someone murders a bunch of people, people start stocking up on weapons just in case there’s a ban.  Not only do the gun manufacturers then have more money to pour into the NRA’s coffers, but at the same time, the people buying the guns are also donating to the NRA to make sure they get to keep those guns.

So, what happens when the card-carrying NRA member with an arsenal that the local police would envy experiences mental illness symptoms? There are already stigmas about mental illness and about seeking treatment, and they seem to be way more prevalent in conservative circles. So, he’s already got to overcome toxic masculinity telling him that a real man just deals with his problems. Maybe he’s got to overcome his pastor telling him that if you have a mental illness you’re not praying enough or your relationship with God isn’t right. If we add, oh, and you might lose the gun collection that makes you feel safe and that you’ve got a huge portion of your identity as an American and as a man tied up in, he’s even less likely to seek treatment.

That’s not to say that every NRA member views their guns as a core part of themselves or as an extension of their masculinity if they’re male.  But certainly many do.  Gun advertising reinforces this all the time.

And, yeah, I value the lives of the Parkland, and Great Mills, and Sandy Hook kids much more than I value anybody else’s gun collection.  But I also value the life of the guy who’s deeply depressed but doesn’t want to seek therapy because he fears they’ll take away his guns.



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