Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The NRA’s Rhetoric is No Commitment to Mental Health Care

Photo: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire/Handout
via Reuters

By Michael J. Fitzpatrick, NAMI Executive Director

During much of the debate that has flowed from the Newtown tragedy last year and most recently the Washington Navy Yard shootings, we have called for a stronger mental health care system.

NAMI also has never hesitated to speak out against the prejudice and discrimination that traditionally exists against people living with mental illness. In discussing violent tragedies and debating gun control, stigma runs high. Millions of Americans have a diagnosable mental illness . They are unfairly stigmatized after mass shootings.

That’s why the rhetoric of the National Rifle Association (NRA) hit an all-time low recently when its Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre, on the Sept. 22 broadcast of Meet the Press, declared: “If we leave these homicidal maniacs on the streets…they’re going to kill.” He equated individuals living with mental illness with “violent criminals and the evil-minded.”

Excess and extremism doesn’t help in building consensus for constructive action; it only divides and distracts attention from achieving real solutions. In an exchange published in USA Today, the newspaper's editorial board correctly noted that LaPierre simplistic rhetoric for committing people with mental illness “would prove wildly infeasible, legally impossible and hopelessly expensive.” That’s not to say that there aren’t improvements that can be made to the mental health care system—but none were mentioned in LaPierre's alternative view published in the same issue.

Although there is no evidence that he really understands what his opinion means, LaPierre’s view that the mental health care system is in “breakdown” is correct. Millions of Americans living with serious mental illness receive no treatment at all. Chronic funding reductions, a system that waits until people are in acute crisis before helping, barriers created by misguided interpretations of privacy laws and other factors have contributed significantly to suicides, homelessness and incarceration in jails and prisons instead of treatment.

Much worse than the stigma is the hypocrisy of the NRA’s position. If the association truly supported wanting to improve the mental health care system, it would be devoting resources and lobbying energies at the federal and state levels to help create a mental health care system that intervenes early and gets treatment and support to those in need, when they need it.

Is the NRA doing anything to protect Medicaid, advocate for acute inpatient beds, more assertive community treatment (ACT) teams, or more supportive housing programs for people living with mental illness? No, when it comes to the critical policy decisions that would truly improve the mental health system, the NRA is nowhere to be seen. Talk is cheap. Stigmatizing, prejudicial statements designed to deflect attention away from the gun debate are vile.

The Sacramento Bee recently published a story claiming that an “odd alliance” of pro-gun lobbyists and mental health advocates have found “a common purpose undermining efforts to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is no such alliance.

Until our nation builds and funds an accessible mental health system that provides effective and timely treatment, the tragic consequences of untreated mental illness will not be reduced.

11 comments:

Mary Lynn said...

The NRA is turning into Westboro Baptist Church and the KKK LOL!!!! Okay. I agree with him--that it's hard to get people committed but sounds like he's mostly trying to revert blame on lax gun laws to those (who are mostly innocent if they are getting treatment) with mental illness. I also believe that gun owners are incriminated but this guy is downright ignorant and quite frankly stupid. But maybe he's not that stupid considering everyone is still writing about him and his outdated opinions giving him promotion. But now, he's just getting funny. Best not give this wack job attention and let him fade away with all his bazookas. The people responsible for massacres are those who carry out the massacres and no one else. As someone living with a mental illness for the rest of her life and fully functional at that, this guy is the village idiot.

Also I live this "Much worse than the stigma is the hypocrisy of the NRA’s position. If the association truly supported wanting to improve the mental health care system, it would be devoting resources and lobbying energies at the federal and state levels to help create a mental health care system that intervenes early and gets treatment and support to those in need, when they need it." - Love that!!! Put your money where your mouth is NRA!

Anonymous said...

Tragedies like the Naval Center will not change the mental health system. What will change it is a social system that is not based in brutal individualism and greed. All the European countries have great mental health systems because their societies have different values.

Mental Illness Policy Org said...

I understand NAMI's concern, but I think the best way to address that would be for NAMI to talk about the NAMI policies that would help the small number of seriously mentally ill who do become violent as a result of anosognosia and/or refusal to accept treatment. Otherwise you are ceding the debate to the NRA and uninformed. NAMI has an excellent policy on this, that was voted on by the board of directors and by the entire membership. You can read the terrific NAMI policy on the NAMI website at http://www.nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Policy/Updates/Involuntary_Commitment_And_Court-Ordered_Treatment.htm
I hope NAMI will vigorously act to inform members and media of it
DJ Jaffe
Exec. Dir
Mental Illness Policy Org
(Former NAMI National Board Member)
http://mentalillnesspolicy.org

waltinseattle said...

just because you dont know of the gun groups who are reaching out...is no proof there are none. I suggest you follow the link the SacBee gives, then look at the second ammendment foundation of Belbue Washington. After that you might like to read an editorial by a man not an "organization...but the man happens to be the brother of Ted Nugent. Have you heard of Ted? his brother did an editorial and i dont remember if it appeared in the NYTimes or the Wall St Journal. You can do the lookup if you care!

Anonymous said...

I have a problem with a network like NBC (?) airing a view to the public that is discriminatory against a disabled group. Do we not have protections? Someone like this should not be allowed airtime! And the network should be fined.

Unknown said...

there are only 2 ways to tackle this NRA rhetoric. 1st you can get into a war with them and waste all your energy. It is called urinating into the wind in some circles. the second way is to charge full on. The psychotic and manic men and women who commit homicide ARE (at least at a given instant) HOMICIDAL. that's what being a killer gets you tagged as. being on a MANIC binge can make you maniacal. And not taking the NRA on headfirst allows them to double and triple coat the facts and the words with emotional intensity. You recoil from truth and you underscore their manipulation of the words. You let them have the words and you let them have the argument. So, my view is that you have missed the opportunity to change the terms of the controversy. You fight the NRA over some p.c. about words and in the same stroke cut the line to engage in doing something better than we are for these manic potential homicidal Brain Diseased human beings. That's a bigger shame in my book

Unknown said...

Talked with Mr Morain and others about that missing alliance. Apparently it is news to us all. most I got to support you was that we dont have a joint bill out somewhere yet

waltinseattle said...

im personally thick skinned that way. not all are. i encourage you to contact the network directly about discrimination. stigma is an issue that has festered too long. whatever you can do to give it sunlight and a good airing out will be progress.

Anonymous said...

A couple things to remember:

Wayne LaPierre is atrocious as a spokesman. He does more harm to the NRA's image than Michael Bloomberg ever could.

With that out of the way;
The NRA is not going to advocate any sort of expansion of the "prohibited persons" class that doesn't involve due process.

Right now the standard is "Adjudicated Mentally Defective" and this includes those judged non compos mentis at a trial, involuntarily committed, and the like. It includes more than mental illness in a "crazy people" way. It includes things like severe mental retardation.

This discussion is a hard one. And it's a hard one because we as a society are trying to see both sides. This blog mentions the stigma attached to mental illness. It mentions the injustice of being painted with the same brush as the Adam Lanzas, and Aaron Alexis of the world.

Welcome to the world of the responsible gun owner. When these events happen, do you see a call in Congress to pass more mental health laws, or to pass more gun control? When you listen to a gun control advocate, do you hear them say "The mentally ill are just one gun purchase away from a rampage.", or do you hear "Gun nuts are just one mental break away from a rampage."?

Being Adjudicated Mentally Defective is a big deal. And it's hard to do. And that's a good thing given how permanent and far reaching that is. You lose rights. Not just the right to bear arms, but often also the right to vote, and the right to travel and be free. These losses are often permanent.

Perhaps we need a middle ground. A court that evaluates a person with professional guidance to determine if they need a shorter-term adjudication for diagnosis and treatment that doesn't involve a permanent stripping of rights. After observation and a course of treatment, if necessary, their rights can be restored or permanently removed with the adjudication of mental defectiveness.

Old Ironsights said...

RE: Anon
"When you listen to a gun control advocate, do you hear them say "The mentally ill are just one gun purchase away from a rampage.", or do you hear "Gun nuts are just one mental break away from a rampage."

Well said.Neither the possession of firearms, nor Mental Illness is "the problem" The PROBLEM is our emotionally based knee-jerk political responses to tragic, but statistically anomalous incidents.

Tom said...

If you have a problem with gun rights groups, educate them, propose sane solutions, give them an opportunity to join the cause of solving basic problems with the system.
Otherwise, as said above, you are wasting your time & energy.
Otherwise, you are prolonging and promoting the administration's agenda divisive tactics.