Watching the news of late you may notice more reference to mental illness than in the past. So an obvious question that would be asked is what is going on. Are there more mentally ill people or is it just a news topic that sells news copy based on some high profile crimes that involved people that are mentally ill.
Schools shootings in Connecticut, child hostage situation in Alabama, shooting of a war hero and his friend in Texas to name just a few. Between all those three instances, thirty one people were killed. All involved guns but what weapon was used is not important to this story, what is important is the percentage of mentally ill people out wandering the streets.
Looking at just common sense, the percentage of mentally ill people is fairly consistent. First to understand the numbers you must break mental illness into three groups being mild, moderate, and severe. The number of mentally ill people in the mild and moderate group can go up and down based on many factors. The state of the economy and the ability to find work has a huge impact on these groups. If people cant find work, depression can happen and that is a form of mental illness. As a result the numbers go up. But these are not the people you hear about in the news.
The mentally ill people who make the news are in the severe mental illness group. The percentage of people in this group is fairly consistent as factors other than the state of the economy tend to put people in this group. They can suffer from a variety of things including hearing and seeing things that are not there.
The most dangerous of this group will act out in violence as a result of these imaginary things. It is these people who make the news as they have either killed people or put people at risk of being killed. There is no talking sense to these people because the normal flow of logic and reason is interrupted, and in many cases they end up dead themselves as law enforcement is forced to act with deadly force to stop them.
The only mental health professionals that are qualified to treat the severe group are Psychiatrists. A Psychiatrist has access to medications that can help bring the brain back into some balance or reduce the level of agitation with tranquilizer type drugs.
It is important to know people with lifelong severe mental health problems the problem is in the brain and not the mind. The physical problems with the brain can be seen with various scans. People who temporarily find themselves in the severe group as a result of some trauma still need the help of a Psychiatrist.
A Psychologist or any other type of mental health provider can not help these people without the help of a Psychiatrist as the flow of logic and reason and or coping ability needed in therapy is simply not there without the assist of medication. It is only the severe group that needs medication. Once the medication has returned the people to the moderate or mild group, then they can work with a Psychologist or other therapist to eventually get back to normal.
However because of how many insurance companies work, giving medication to people in the mild and moderate group as a cost savings measure has been the practice. These people are better off in therapy to learn to deal with the problems and not hide from them with various psychiatric medications. Once these coping skills are learned the chances of relapse are greatly reduced. To put it another way that does not stigmatize people is these people simply need an upgrade in their coping skills. It is not much different than going out and buying the newest release of Photoshop or going from Windows 7 to Windows 8. Once the upgrade is installed more things can be done. So more or less going to a therapist is like going to a school where the therapist is the teacher.
So as for mental health being in the news more often it is a combination of several things. As the population goes up people are packed closer together and therefor the chance of conflict goes up. Also the access to adequate mental health professionals has a lot to do with it as well. Another factor is often the people in the severe group don’t recognize they have a problem. The “I am OK it is the world that is all messed up’ is a classic response. In many cases they will stop taking their medication as they feel it is unnecessary.
So as mental health seems to be front and center in the news, there is a valid reason for it. Making people aware of the problem will eventually change public opinion and the availability of help will eventually go up. As to stop the effect of being in the news, addressing the cause is the thing to do. Not stigmatizing people who need help is also important. The fear of somehow being seen as less than whole can and does stop people from seeking help.
As for how this plays into the gun laws is very important. Technology already exists that can prohibit the sale of guns and more importantly ammunition. Having a bio scanner that reads a person’s thumb print can indicate to the merchant that sale of weapons or ammunition is prohibited. Once that information that someone who is prohibited from buying guns or ammunition was trying to buy them, the appropriate investigation can be launched as to why, and this could serve to eliminate the homicide headlines that is the heart of this entry.
To give up a bit of privacy when it comes to buying weapons is a very small price to pay when the unnecessary loss of human life is the other option.