- Johnetta Barnes, LPC, NCC, CPCS
Mass Shootings and the Mental Health Excuse
Updated: Aug 25, 2021
CBS News (2019) states that there have been 255 mass shootings in the United States alone as of August 2019. In the wake of current events I felt compelled to discuss the topic of gun violence and mental illness. According to the research, most people with mental illness are not violent. In fact, they are more likely to become victims of violence (Nami, 2019). Throughout my years of experience in working as a mental health professional, I find this to be true. Most client’s that I have treated are more likely to hurt themselves through self-harm behavior such as cutting, drug use as a form of self-medication to alleviate emotional turmoil and suicide attempts in order to escape the pain and mental anguish that they endure daily.
Upon watching the news and press conferences, it was quite disturbing to see that mass shootings are being solely blamed on mental health. While mental health is an epidemic in America, the solution does not solely rely on mental health but gun controls laws. Gifford’s Laws Center to Prevent Gun Violence (2018) states that assault weapons pose a distinct threat to safety and security of American people as it makes it easier for deranged attackers to kill more people quickly. In layman’s terms, the word deranged is used to describe people who are sick in the head. The mental health term for this is described as psychosis. Psychosis is a severe form of mental illness that occurs when a person lost touch with reality as a result of hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations occur when a person sees, hears or feels something that is not there. Delusions are false beliefs such as a person thinking that someone is out to get them (paranoia) or that they are receiving special messages from T.V. or another source. The fact is, thoughts or actions are not based on reality and therefore called psychosis. The most common forms of psychosis occur in those who suffer from Schizophrenia, extreme cases of Bipolar I disorder during manic episodes or drug induced psychosis (NIMH, 2019).
The reality is, we cannot afford to just focus on mental health alone. If we are to do so then let’s talk about access to care. Private insurance companies have a cap on the amount of sessions that one can have which is typically up to 4 per month in an outpatient setting. Individuals who require a higher level of care at psychiatric facilities struggle with affordability to receive treatment due to co-pays which many people cannot afford (i.e. $1500 for intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization). Medicaid or Medicare also has limitations on services that one can receive due to budget cuts, restrictions on licensed professionals and access to quality care. While there are community resources, the lack of funding makes it difficult to meet the needs of many people.
As a daughter of a retired military veteran, I understand the right to bear arms. I also understand the purpose of assault rifles and or semi-automatic weapons which is to kill as many people quickly as possible which is necessary during times of war. There is no need for civilians to have access to semi-automatic weapons. I digress! America is not currently at war with any other countries but at war among ourselves. We have an epidemic that we cannot afford to lose sight of. America must not only focus on mental health but gun control laws and those who have access to guns. As a mental health professional, I wouldn’t be opposed to performing psychological evaluations prior to the purchase of a gun. Perhaps this would encourage or require people to seek treatment. If not, then it would prevent them from purchasing weapons in the first place. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but we must look into more access to mental health treatment, stricter gun laws and the explore the fact that some people are just inherently evil.
Gifford’s Law center to prevent gun violence (2018). Assault Weapons.
Retrieved from https://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/hardware-ammunition/assault-weapons/
National Alliance on Mental Illness (2019). Violence and gun reporting laws.
National Institute of Mental Health (2019). What is Psychosis. Retrieved from
Silverstein, J. (2019). There have been more mass shootings than days this year.