It has taken a long time to write this blog post. Life has been busy. We all lead busy lives. My husband and I welcomed a new granddaughter and love that she, her mommy and her daddy are all well and good. We now eagerly await the arrival of another grandson and continue to pray for his and his mother’s health. We have celebrated with a nephew and a niece as they welcomed a son and daughter to add to the mass of cousins in the family! And of course, regular life goes on – work, church, family and friends.
Most of all, however, I have not written because I just don’t know what to say or how to respond to the turmoil that is happening in our country right now. Another mass shooting in a school – the 18th for this year and the year is not even half over. My heart aches and yes, I worry! As a mother and grandmother I worry about the safety of these children. As an American citizen, I worry about our country and the fact that we cannot seem to learn from our history or from other countries. Why is there so much debate over gun control? Why must we be so quick to blame the mental health field, parents and society instead of looking at the whole picture and working to include all aspects in “the solution?”
Parenting programs that offer support and help can be one aspect of the “solution.” This is a very different world than it was even 30 years ago. Parents face different issues when raising children today. Perhaps we should be looking at programs that educate and support parents and teach parenting skills. Instead of telling people what they shouldn’t do perhaps we should help them to look at what they can do. Unfortunately, some of the very programs that were designed to help in this area have been cut from the budget of our country. As reported in the Washington Post -
To pay for an increase in defense spending, a down payment on a border wall, and other things, funding was cut from the discretionary budget of other departments: Environmental Protection Agency – 31% cut, State Department – 33% cut – and most importantly for this conversation . . . Department of Health and Human Services – 18% cut and the Education Department – 14% cut.
The very departments that offer these types of programs have had large cuts.
Now let’s look at gun control. It is important to protect the rights of all of our citizens. Not once in all of the Facebook posts and the conversations that I am hearing, have I personally heard anyone say – take away all guns from every citizen. What I hear instead is, “Let’s have more gun control. Let’s be more responsible with the gun laws here in the United States.” We are a great country and have great influence throughout the world. We must not, however, think that we are so wonderful that we cannot learn from other countries. Please look at the following -
The gun homicide rate in England and Wales is about one for every 1 million people, according to the Geneva Declaration of Armed Violence and Development, a multinational organization based in Switzerland. In a peer-reviewed paper published by American Law and Economics Review in 2012, researchers Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfrid Laurier University found that in the decade following the NFA, firearm homicides (both suicides and intentional killings) in Australia had dropped significantly.
Should the U.S. enact laws exactly like those in the UK and in Australia? Probably not. Our country is not exactly the same as other countries. We are unique and wonderful. However, we can learn from other countries. We can look at research and then make decisions on what works best for our country. Continuing to arm more and more people is NOT the answer.
Finally the area that I feel I can best speak to – mental health. Do we need to look at our mental health system? Absolutely! As a mental health therapist I know first-hand many of the flaws in our system. Right now, the health insurance companies determine how much they will pay for each client’s visit. They determine how many visits each client can have paid through their plan. They are the ones that determine the types of treatment that will be covered – NOT THE PROFESSIONAL THERAPIST WHO HAS BEEN TRAINED AND EDUCATED IN THIS FIELD.
Once again – let’s follow more of the money. From the Washington Post in 2012 –
In the last five years, significant budget cuts have befallen mental health programs and services. From 2009 to 2011, states cut mental health budgets by a combined $4 billion- the largest single combined reduction to mental health spending since de-institutionalization in the 1970s.
Things have not changed since then. Remember that 18% cut in the Human Health and Services Department? That is the area that “funds” mental health! Instead of helping to fund more programs, helping providers decrease the paperwork and red tape, our government is making it more difficult to do our jobs. Estimates suggest that perhaps ½ of people with mental illnesses here in the U.S. actually receive treatment. This may be due to stigma but it can also be attributed to lack of care (not enough therapists and programs) and an inability to pay for needed treatment.
This is a complex problem. It will not be completely solved by more programs and spending, by mental health revision or gun control individually. I do believe that great things can happen, however, when we all come together and address all of these areas. Do we need to continue to fight amongst ourselves or can we get together and have a real dialog – a conversation? Can we all agree that school shootings, shootings in movie theaters, mass violence anywhere in our country is not OK? Great – then what will you do about it? I, for one, will stand with the students in Florida and all over the country. I will march in support of their cause here in Detroit, and I will continue to speak for reform in many areas and work to bring people together.