By LOUISE A. FLAVAHAN
#GOP pivots towards #mentalhealth, video games and rates of interpersonal gun violence in urban centers like Chicago in the wake of mass carnage are both disingenuous and tiring. It shows a complete lack of understanding about gun violence in America and an even greater lack of conviction in addressing it.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
Violence prevention, as a field of research, policy and programming is broken into broad categories that help frame and guide prevention approaches. These categories include: interpersonal violence, self-directed violence or #suicide, elder abuse, gender-based violence (often called “violence against women” in the U.S.), violence against children, youth violence, and collective violence (or war). These categories can be further subdivided into more specific forms such as gang violence, intimate-partner violence (domestic violence), child sexual abuse, etc. Although there is some overlap across forms, the risk factors — the pathways toward each form of violence — are different. And, as you might surmise, the approaches to prevention for each are likewise different.
“Gun violence” is actually at least four different categories of violence: interpersonal violence (the gun violence we see in urban centers), self-directed violence or #suicide, intimate-partner violence, and mass violence. To be sure, there are general gun violence prevention measures that would yield results across categories, but each form of gun violence will require tailored, multi-pronged policy and programming to address the unique risk factors involved.
Capitulating on one form by practicing “whataboutism” in regard to another (say by talking about interpersonal gun violence in Chicago after a mass shooting in El Paso or Dayton), does little to offer meaningful solutions to either problem and focusing on any one “cause” or solution will not be effective. For instance, when #mentalhealth is discussed by politicians as both the root cause and potential cure-all for gun violence — especially in the context of mass violence — it should signal to every American that these politicians needs better policy advisors.
In terms of policy approaches to gun violence prevention, “#mentalhealth” typically means restricting access to firearms among those with a diagnosed #mentalhealth condition or increasing access to health care — the latter of which is something we should value and advance in the U.S. generally.
This is an effective prevention approach in the context of #suicide; where we know that nine out of 10 individuals who attempt #suicide have an underlying #mentalhealthcondition. We also know that nine out of 10 people who survive a #suicide attempt will go on to die of other causes — indicating some degree of recovery. However, evidence shows that 85 to 90% of people who attempt #suicide with a firearm will succeed in ending their lives. Guns are highly effective killing machines; it is what they have been explicitly designed for. And guns account for more #suicides in America than all other means or methods combined. Reducing access to more lethal means, such as guns, among those who are at risk of #suicide due to #mentalhealth will categorically saves lives.
But this approach will not be nearly as effective in preventing interpersonal gun violence or episodes of mass shootings. There simply isn’t an evidentiary basis for connecting #mentalhealth to the perpetration of interpersonal violence. In fact, individuals with a mental health condition are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. And while the exact number of perpetrators of mass gun violence who suffered from a #mentalhealthcondition is unknown (they are often killed during the attack itself and are thus never diagnosed), estimates range from 20 to 60% of all perpetrators. The problem is that the majority of these perpetrators are unknown to the #mentalhealth system prior to their attacks, meaning they would not have been prevented from purchasing a firearm even if restrictive legislation based on #mentalhealth status were passed.
And besides, even if we were 100% effective in restricting access to firearms among those with a #mentalhealthcondition, we would only reduce violent crime in this country by 4%. Meaning we would further stigmatize a population that already faces a high degree of marginalization with minimal impact on interpersonal or mass gun violence.
And this is but one example of the complex, multi-faceted nature of gun violence in America. Like all problems that are complex and multi-faceted, it demands complex and multi-faceted solutions. And we need to start demanding our politicians be committed to passing and funding all of them if we are serious about solving gun violence in America.