Five questions about mental health on a day like today?

I’m not a mental health expert, let’s get that straight. However, I covered some mental health issues during my career. 

Let me tell you something, the craven scapegoating of the mental health industry and those it serves on is not just revolting in its cowardice. It’s reprehensible in its politics. 

First of all, study after study has shown that people with mental health issues are far more likely to be victims of crimes than perpetrators of them.

Second of all, on days when this type of gun violence strike, certain politicians, pundits and citizens will say we need to concentrate on mental health issues. This is a dodge that has lasted for far too long. 

If these people really care about mental health issues, ask yourselves – or them, if you’re capable – these five questions.

1. What specific public policies do you support to fix the mental health system? Do you want to see more tax dollars going to programs that would help educate more psychiatrists? As republicans attempt to repeal Obamacare, how do you address parity? Should we force insurers to treat mental health issues equally with physical health issues?

2. Should public policy address the issue of people with mental health issues having access to guns? This is a tricky question, and if you actually care about mental health issues, you should have put a lot of thought into it already. What mental illnesses would we draw the line at? Does this mean certifying every gun owner?

3. What has your preferred candidate/political party done on this issue? Have they cut funding? Expanded it? What is their relationship to special interests on this issue? What mental health advocates have you heard from?

4. What is the other side – politically or culturally – saying about mental health issues? This is far from easy. Listen to the other side on this discussion. What valuable points are they bringing up? What are they saying that you’ve never thought about? Some mental health issues are cut and dried. Others are very gutsy and no answers seem obvious.  

5. What about this specific shooting makes you think it was a mental health issue? This is a tough question. Are you basing it off of your own gut reaction or research? What have mental health advocates and mental health groups said about it? Do you call all forms of mass violence mental health issues? Or just some? What makes you differentiate between San Bernadino, Columbine and Las Vegas?

Look, we need to talk about gun control and public safety at times like this. But we also need to talk about mental health issues more often than when blood has been spilled. 

Which leads me to a bonus question: When was the last time you took part in or watched a political discussion about mental health issues and it wasn’t right after a mass shooting?

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