Mental Illness and Violence

Mental illnesses are medical condition that disrupt a person’s ability to think, feel, and relate to others daily. The Second Amendment grants the right to bear arms, but the lack of focus on mental illness has led to an increase in mass shootings, homicides and suicides in the United States. Rather than alter citizens’ rights by changing the Second Amendment, the US government should make programs for the mentally ill, educate families and the public about possible ways to contain these situations.

On December 14, 2012 Adam Lanza’s a 20-year-old male killed twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The guns used were found to have been purchased legally by Lanza’s mother, who was also killed by Lanza earlier that same day. While it can be argued that this was a legal purchase and banning guns would have prevented this tragedy, there are also many other issues in Adam’s life leading to this event that could have equally prevented this from happening.

The Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate, about 2 years after the shooting, released a report that identified Lanza as a person who exhibited warning signs throughout his life. Lanza had been diagnosed with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anorexia. It was found that he went untreated over the years for all these illnesses. With more attention to Lanza’s illness and needs, the tragic incident could have been averted.

Another major failure that existed was caused by the school system who failed to monitor Adam’s home education life because of his inability to function in a social setting.

This isolation and his inability to function in a social settings greatly contributed to his state of mind resulting in the massacre at Sandy Hook.

If all the parties working together could have given proper resources including medications and therapy, then one could argue that the path taken could have been very different. Medical experts at Yale University had called for drastic measures to help Adam Lanza in the years before he shot and killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., but those calls “went largely unheeded” by his mother” (Adam Lanza’s mental health problems) Many states instead of funding these programs, are making big cuts to services for children and adults that are living with mental illnesses. Lack of hospital and community services for these people lead to them falling through the cracks and going on to commit these violent acts.

“According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders, 30 to 70% of murderers have a mental disorder of a grade 1 or a personality disorder of grade II” (Risk of homicide and major mental disorders: a critical review) While these people obtain guns legally and illegally, it seems more beneficial to address these underlying mental illnesses to prevent violence before it happens. Also, it is noted that “mental disorder increases the risk of homicidal violence by two-fold in men and six-fold in women” (Risk of homicide and major mental disorders: a critical review) It can also be argued that mentally ill people are likely to abuse alcohol and drugs which increases the risks for violence. Cuts in resources for community driven programs such as homeless shelters leave these people with no place to go therefore increasing their desperation and harming others.

“The great majority of people who experience a mental illness do not die by suicide. However, of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental illness” (Facts about Mental Illness and Suicide) A lot of these people are experiencing symptoms of mental disorders but are not diagnosed therefore have not been given the tools to cope with their illness. While gun control would seem to decrease this number by limiting access how would addressing these underlying issues help prevent suicide. Also, it could be argued that if a person is determined to get a gun, they will ultimately find a way to obtain it, even it if is done illegally.

“State mental health budget cuts of this size inevitably result in loss of services for the most vulnerable residents living with serious mental illnesses. As budget cuts have mounted, both inpatient and community services for children and adults living with serious mental illness have been downsized or eliminated. In some states, entire hospitals have been closed; in others, community mental health programs have been eliminated.” (State mental health cuts: the continuing crisis) Medicaid, which is the source of public mental health services projected in June 2011 a $14 billion-dollar loss for state Medicaid programs (State mental health cuts: the continuing crisis) Without this funding, families are left to deal with the problems alone. Their loved ones often end up on the street or in jail where they continue to not receive the proper medications, therapy and skills that would prevent violent acts against other or even to themselves.

An added issue to people living with mental illness is the stigma associated with these diagnoses. Mental illness is not self-induced and should be viewed as the same with any other medical condition needing treatment. These people often shy away from treatment for fear that they will be looked down on in their communities. Education about this will increase compassion and hopefully make them not feel shame for getting help.

While banning guns is a viable option to decrease gun violence, getting help to those with mental illness can significantly reduce the likelihood of violence. Experts agree that people with mental illnesses are very unlikely to engage in violent acts when they are receiving the treatment they need. Banning guns could have an impact on mass shootings, suicide and homicides but it also goes against the Second Amendment Right of our constitution to bear arms. Increasing outreach programs for the mentally ill and education families on the importance of treatment can help decrease the violence. Also, there is a need to stop cutting state funds to assist these patients.

It would also be helpful to improve the tracking of this patient’s after they receive treatment. This will give states a way to show the importance of these programs and how they are decreasing violence. Preventing them from ending up on the streets with no place to go and in jails where they are exposed to violent offenders could have a big impact on the future of the mentally ill.

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