This past week we have once again endured, as a nation, the loss of several young lives due to a gun getting into the wrong hands, of the wrong person. This gun being an AR-15, or Colt Armalite Assault Rifle-15, an adaption of an M16, an assault refile that was first used in the Vietnam war, and is continued to be used in the U.S Military and in several military teams around the world. This is not the first time this gun has killed dozens of civilian people, rather it is the 5th shooting that occurred in the U.S with this gun. This mass shooting has, once again, put Congress in a position where the people of the U.S want action. Many people are demanding to remove assault rifles from civilian access, others demand a background check be conducted before a civilian buys a gun, others demand a psychological evaluation, while others feel that taking guns like the AR-15 off the market, wouldn’t do any difference, they feel people will kill with whatever, and that parents should discipline their child. There is a problem with these solutions though, and that is that society and Congress are trying to treat the symptom, not the disease. Take something simple like bronchitis. A doctor can give you a medication to stop your cough and it will stop it, but at the end of the day the infection is going to dissipate in your body, causing you to die. We can learn to control guns or do background checks, or parents can discipline their children, but that is not going to fix the cause to the problem of mass shootings, because the cause isn’t the weapon, it is the person’s mental status.
Besides the shooters having the same type of gun in common, the other things all these murders have in common is trauma. As we have learned, Nickolas Cruz was a foster child, jumping from family to family his first few years of is life, and later his adoptive parents died, causing him to jump to another family, and eventually be expelled from school due to uncontrollable behaviors. Mental health treatment was never given to him despite being a foster and adoptive child. The shooting before Parkland Florida, that was with an AR-15 was in New York by a doctor who injured 6 and killed 1. Doctors are the professionals with most likelihood of committing suicide, especially surgeons. Then we move on to the worst mass shooting in America by Stephen Paddock, the Last Vegas shooting that killed 58 and injured hundreds. Paddock’s dad was a felon, who escaped prison when paddock was just 7, and never reappeared in his life again, Paddock also married twice, divorced once. Paddock went onto college to get his degree in business administration, but things in his personal life weren’t so well.
Mental health treatment has worsened as times has gone by; teen depression has increased rom 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2%. As mental health has worsened though, access to mental health care has increased thanks to the Affordable Care Act decreasing premiums (The State of Mental Health in America, 2017). The bad news here though, is that there is a serious shortage of professionals in the mental health workforce. There is a 6:1 ratio between patients and professionals in the mental health field, this includes psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers, therapist, and psychiatric nurses. Along side that, at least 56% of Americans do not have any mental health treatment in their area. That means that more than half of Americans needing mental health treatment will not have treatment and will ultimately be lost in the system. Accompanied with that is the misconception that you need an official DSM-V diagnosis like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, delusional disorder and so on to receive mental health treatment; that is a myth. Anyone who feels that they need help due to an emotional duress, or has gone through some sort of trauma can get mental health treatment. Trauma incudes exposure to domestic violence, divorce, separation from parent, being adopted, moving homes several times, exposure to drugs, death of a parent or family member, and the list can go on forever.
Banning guns will help, doing a background check may help, better parenting can help but if we don’t improve mental health treatment this violence will continue whether it is with an AR-15 or a knife. We cannot treat a disease by treating the symptoms, we must treat the cause, in this case, we need to fix the mental health system.