One week after an 18-year-old gunman killed 21 people, including 19 children, opponents of reasonable restrictions on the use of guns continue to shift focus to other potential causes, including a lack of mental health services.
“We need to look at the cause of these attacks,” said Representative Vicki Hartzler of Missouri. Are there psychological problems that we can address? She asked.
“We need to keep working to ensure that anyone with a mental health or behavioral problem gets the treatment they need, when they need it,” Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri told PBS NewsHour.
“We as a state, as a society, need to do a better job on mental health,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said.
Americans should not be misled. The problem is people’s access to high-powered weapons, not just mental illness. There is no indication that the Ovaldi, Texas, shooter sought mental health counseling. There is no evidence that better services would have prevented this particular massacre.
Moreover, the stressing of mental health concerns after the mass killings unfairly hurts millions of Americans who deal with depression and other issues. Not everyone who asks for help plans to shoot someone else. In fact, blaming mental illness for gun violence may discourage some patients from seeking help when they need it.
The first and most important answer to gun violence is fewer guns, period.
At the same time, improving mental health treatment in this country is necessary on its own terms. more than A third of Missouri’s adult population reports symptoms of anxiety or depression In just one week last fall; in Kansas, The number was 29%.
The coronavirus crisis has tripled the number of people with mental health problems. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports: “In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health conditions have worsened.”
Mental illness hurts patients, families, and friends. It hurts the economy. It causes suffering, and sometimes violence.
In 2022, according to Mental Health America, an advocacy group, ranked Missouri 41st in the country for access to mental health care. Kansas, which is refusing to expand Medicaid, did worse, ranking 44th in the country. These are horrific numbers.
Children’s mental health services In both countries below par. In Kansas, there is one psychiatrist for every 1,157 students. One study found. Missouri’s ratio is one psychiatrist for every 4,867 students.
The recommended ratio is 1-500.
“We need more mental health professionals in our schools,” he said. National Education Association President Becky Pringle.
“We have a mental health crisis for children,” A recent statement from Cheri Vaughn saidexecutive director of the Kansas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
In Kansas and Missouri, it is still very difficult to find mental health providers and pay for treatment. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people are suffering in both countries, most of them in silence.
Both countries must continue to increase spending on and availability of mental health services. Then, though, there’s more to do: Lawmakers should link mental health treatment to the ability to purchase or possess a gun.
Both Kansas and Missouri lack the so-called “Red flag laws,” which allow courts to temporarily restrict possession of firearms for those found to pose a threat to themselves or others. Both states should pass such laws.
To his credit, Blunt said he’s open to the National Red Flag Act. Congress should act if states do not. There is no reason for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis to have a gun.
America has a lot of guns. It also has a very large number of people who need help with mental illness. We must work on the first problem, and at the same time, work on the second.