Friday, July 20, 2012

Gun Control or Mental Health Care? Aurora, Colorado

The shock of today's mass shooting in Aurora, CO has reignited the on again/off again debate about gun control. Apparently last year Aurora was listed as one of the safest places in our country to live.
Then this happens, and guns are the main topic of conversation.

Is it the correct conversation though?

Might I propose that a city is only as safe as it's most mentally unhealthy and untreated member?

Folks, the kid that did the shooting was described in numerous media outlets as a "normal" 24 year old who was active in his mainstream church. So far as we know, he wasn't into gangs, or drugs, or any other lifestyle that might endanger his stability.

If this man was as he is being described, then clearly there were mental health issues lurking.

Who knows, maybe he talked to a professional at some point about his inclinations, but my guess is he didn't. People in the psychiatry world would have to report someone who was a danger to himself or others.

If we start examining how mental health is treated in this country we will see a trend. Often times when those who need mental health support look into that support, they find pitfalls.

Insurance companies have largely avoided solidly covering mental health for years. At a higher co-pay, after the correct code is entered, if a patient is referred, records that are returned to the military... Pick a hoop to jump through.

Say the person decides help is worth all the struggle that is required by a company or policy---that person needing the help may receive four or six sessions with a professional. If they need more than that, most policies will re-evaluate from that point forward but there's no guarantee they won't cut a person off. Mental health isn't a broken ankle. Some people need a few sessions to help them through a tough situation, and others need long term care.

Why isn't there a huge unstoppable uproar when it comes to caring for these people? Why does the uproar only happen when someone doesn't get help and tragedy strikes?

The Affordable Care Act is taking a step by bringing parity between mental and physical health and that's great. We as a society need to go further though and stop vilifying the people who get help before a disaster occurs.

Personally, I would much rather demystify and de-shame the policy of going to a mental health professional than watch another shooting take place.

So sure, we can keep talking about guns and gun control. I 100% agree that the right to bear arms wasn't intended to include "oozies", but is that really the conversation this tragedy should spark?

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