Guns + Mental Health

By Shar Martinez

On Sunday, Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire at the First Baptist Church in the small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The shooting, which has been described as the worst mass shooting in Texas history by Governor Greg Abbot, left 26 people dead and multiple people injured. The massacre left about 4% of the Sutherland Springs population dead.

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The victims were aged 18 months through 77 years old.

After the massacre, Kelley fled the scene as he was pursued by 2 residents. The heroic residents chased him until he crashed his vehicle.

When officials arrived on the scene, the shooter was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Authorities stated that there had been a “domestic situation” between Kelley and his mother-in-law, who regularly attends the church but wasn’t there at the time of the massacre, before the shooting happened.

This comes just one month after the Las Vegas shooting that left 58 people dead and 546 injured.

Guns are not the problem.
Guns are not the problem.
Guns are not the problem.

Have you ever seen a gun just walk out of the store and take fire at everyone in sight?

Me either.

People who possess guns are the problem. Just as people who plow through large crowds of people with vehicles, or use acid or knives to attack others are the problem.

Is this a serious problem of mental health?

I don’t personally know Devin Kelley or any other mass murderers, so I can’t say, “I know for a fact that [insert name here] struggled with [insert specific mental illness here], that’s why [insert pronoun here] did it!”

However, in my experience alone, I’ve seen that mental health is not taken as seriously as physical health by society, medical professions included.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), signed by President George W. Bush in 2008, requires doctors and insurers to treat mental illness the same as physical illness. Meaning that addiction or depression are to be covered the exact same as a general health check or surgery by insurance companies.

So what’s the problem?

Everyone doesn’t have health insurance.
Not everyone gets health insurance through their job.
For those who do, some plans are exempt from MHPAEA.
It doesn’t seem like anyone is doing much to promote compliance.
And several other factors.

As quoted by NPR, “A study suggests those doctors often fall short in treating depression because of insurance issues, time constraints and other factors.”

Unlike many physical ailments, mental health isn’t a disease that comes and goes. You can’t just get over it. There’s a stigma that disorders such as anxiety, depression, OCD, schizophrenia etc., aren’t real because they are neurological. These diseases are very real and can affect the entire life of those who suffer from such diseases, as well as those who are around them, which is all too common.

Mental health isn’t something that is talked about openly, often, because of the negativity associated with it. Those who need help will often never seek it because they feel may feel embarrassed or ashamed. Furthermore, because of the complexity of the healthcare system in general many people have no idea if they’ll be able to afford help or if they’re insurance plan covers it.

Additionally, if everyone goes around blaming mass shootings on mental health, those who suffer from it surely won’t feel comfortable addressing their illness.

For the fact that mental health isn’t something that’s physically seen and most people will never suffer from it, it’s easy to dismiss. And everyone seems to have an opinion about it.

Let’s break the cycle of negativity and focus on a solution.

Mental illnesses are real.

What we can do:
1. Let’s stop blaming guns for horrible disasters such as this and focus better on better laws and policies that regulate the manufacture, sale, transfer, possession, modification and use of firearms by civilians.
2. Let’s stop blaming mental illness for the inexcusable actions of others when we don’t know their stories in full detail.
3. Let’s practice better physical health. The body and mind are intrinsically linked. Physical health problems can lead to mental distress.
4. Let’s speak out for those who can’t speak, and talk more openly about it, just as we would anything else.
5. Let’s aspire to help others by using our platforms, and those who are in our very own communities by reaching out to them, giving them a nonjudgmental shoulder to cry on, and providing them with adequate resources.
6. Let’s not group people who suffer from mental illnesses together. Everyone’s situation is different.

Mental illness isn’t to blame for all shootings. It’s more complex than a mental health problem. However, mental illness should be brought to the forefront of our nation.