Gun Violence in America
As we see an influx of media headlines discussing gun violence cases, from domestic violence to mass shootings, there is no question that our society has been rattled by viciousness. Inevitably, news about gun violence catalyzes a discussion surrounding mental health. These misconceptions ignite the stigmas surrounding mental health and lead to a distorted view of the mental health population.
When it comes to guns, the question that seeks to be answered is: why are mass shootings and guns capturing more media attention than suicide rates and guns? “Our society is not looking into this issue enough, but its frequency and the consequences of suicide continue to be felt by many Americans,” said Ronald D. Sager, M.D., a psychiatrist at the Balance Treatment Center in California. “While recent shootings are certainly a tragedy, suicide is another mental health issue that doesn’t often receive much coverage in the media,” Sager states. The truth is, those suffering from a mental illness are more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators.
Although suicide is one of the top ten leading causes of death in America, the discussion is not geared towards finding solutions, but rather scapegoating and pinning blame on individuals suffering from a mental health illness. Psychology Today discusses how commonly mental health is alluded to when it comes to mass shootings, which leads to misinforming our society into associating the thousands of individuals suffering from a mental illness as being hazardous to society. Research suggests that those suffering from mental disorders, who have access to firearms are at an increased risk for suicide attempts. Astonishing research data from 1999-2014 indicates suicide rates tripling amongst females ages 10-14 years old, according to Psychology Today. Moreover, middle-aged men and women are reported to have the most upsurge in suicide rates, and people over the age of 75 years having the highest overall suicide rates. The spike in suicide rates should be matched with an increase in mental health funding, but instead we are confronted with a stigma surrounding mental health treatment and underfunding of effective resources.
According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five students will experience some form of mental health challenge during their college tenure. How do we help address the increased prevalence of mental health illness, coupled with the underfunding of resources? Dr. Sager suggests an effective method to address the situation is to implement more counseling for suicide prevention in high schools, colleges, and universities across the board. He states that investing in mental health care for students will result in favorable outcomes for the future of this generation. With the challenges created by social media, bullying, and daily struggles the youth encounter, instilling coping skills will help reduce negative behaviors.
By joining collectively to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, we can focus our efforts to improve access to mental health services to those who can most benefit from them. Our job as a society is to allocate funding to render beneficial mental health services as a preventative measure, rather than only in extreme conditions. With a forward-thinking and solution-based approach, we can remove barriers to change and understand that keeping the mind healthy is just as imperative as keeping the body healthy.
Written by Mashal Rezai
Intake Coordinator, Balance Treatment Center
NAMI. (2018, March). Mental Health By The Numbers: https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers