Letter: Mental health services not a gun-control panacea


To the editor:

Here is why reasonable gun control laws need to be the first step in reducing the number and frequency of gun related deaths in America.

I am aware of those who propose mental health services as the primary need to reduce gun-related deaths in this country. But let us consider what is involved in receiving mental health services:

• The services must be available at a reasonable cost.

• The patient(s) must be willing to participate. Being forced to do to a psychiatrist or mental health counselor might get the patient in the door but what happens if the patient refuses to acknowledge a problem? Can the patient be forced to reveal thoughts and feelings? Think about — the patient is sitting in a chair opposite the mental health professional. The professional asks questions to try and determine if the patient has a problem and what treatment is needed. Maybe the patient will engage in conversation, maybe not. Maybe the patient will say what is on his/her mind, maybe not. The patient may attend scheduled appointments, maybe not. Maybe the patient will acknowledge others are concerned about him, maybe not. Maybe the patient will say that he/she is being forced to attend and has no interest in counseling and/or medication.

•If the patient is given medication who is going to make sure the he/she takes it? There are many side effects to many medications that are unpleasant. Some people do not want to take medication at all for any reason.

• If the patient misses appointments what is to be done?

• If the patient attends the appointment but does not think he/she has any problems what is to be done?

• If the patient has dangerous weapons at home and is seen as unstable what is to be done?

I am not opposed to mental health treatment. Indeed, I had been a mental health counselor for many years and worked with many people who were engaged with and benefitted from treatment.

It is because of my experience with those who were mandated to be in treatment that I learned first hand how a reluctant and non-compliant patient puts powerful obstacles in the way of attending and using mental health services.

It may be trite to say, "you can bring a horse to water, but you can't make him drink," but I have found this adage to be helpful in understanding why mental health treatment is not a panacea for every person with a disturbed personality.

And certainly mental health counseling cannot and should not be considered as a first step in preventing those who have weapons of destruction from using them.

Natalie Jacobson, Williamstown


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