No More Normal: Gun Control, Mental Health & Stigma

The NRA’s solution to reducing gun violence? The USA should consider a national database for the mentally ill!

Last Friday, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said, in the response to the Newtown shootings:

“How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?”

In his speech, LaPierre stresses that without a national database, our society won’t know about all the potentially killers hiding in the shadows.

With the latest highly-publicized shooting happening only a few days ago in Rochester, gun control has become a hot topic within our current public discourse.

Putting my personal feelings towards stricter gun control aside,  I want to discuss instead how problematic a “national database of the mentally ill” would be.

LaPierre’s words are disgusting and appalling. His statement treats people suffering from mental illnesses as an “other”. They are framed as a large, homogenous group that “normal” people need to monitor. Reading his words, I honestly feel as if LaPierre sees people with mental illnesses as a lower class of human or even a separate species.

LaPierre is clearly out of touch with reality.

A database would only serve to further stigmatize mental illness in our society. We need to support those living with mental illnesses, not shut them out.

Currently, our society often treats people with mental illnesses as weak, inferior or even like “monsters“.  If the American government imposed a national database, people with mental illnesses might fear judgment or public humiliation. Mental health stigma often results in inequality when seeking employment, housing or educational opportunities.

The database would only serve to inhibit those who have problems from seeking help or getting adequate treatment.

I do feel that background checks are certainly necessary for when purchasing guns. However, not everyone with a mental illness should be considered dangerous.  According to the American Psychiatric Association, only 4 to 5 percent of violent crimes are committed by people with mental illnesses.

Mental illness is extremely common, encompassing a diverse range of disorders. Looking closer to home, approximately one fifth of Canadians suffer from some form of mental illness.

What does pointing out the commonality of mental illness prove? That there is no “normal”.

Most of you probably have multiple family members and friends who suffer from some form of mental illness. They are not monsters. They are regular people, who, with help and support, are able to function and often make significant contributions to society.

Please, let us not disrespect ourselves, our family, our friends and our neighbours, in thinking otherwise.

Advertisements