, Salem, MA


January 29, 2013

Column: Beware labels when talking about guns, mental illness

Murder at a political meeting in Arizona, a movie theater or school in Colorado, Sandy Hook, the Amish school in Lancaster County and college campuses around the country ... is only a partial list of horrible gun-related violent events that we are focusing upon nationally. In light of the tragedies involving shooting murders of innocent numbers of people around the world, including those in Sweden, Russia, the United States and the Middle East, I believe we as a people are missing the opportunity here before us. We are really discussing violence, but we are not calling it by the correct label. Instead, we are mislabeling it and saying “mentally ill” and “guns.”

Recently, I received a notice from the federal Department of Health and Human Services reminding clinical staff of our responsibilities to report mental health issues to other officials and care providers. On the local public radio station last week was a story of a politician planning to submit a bill to have all new gun owners submit their background mental health records before purchasing a gun.

It seems some people want to blame “the mentally ill” and “have them reported.” We tried that sort of exclusion in the past with people who had blindness and leprosy in several Bible stories. We killed witches in the Salem Witch Trials in the earlier times of our local history because they were considered different. We nationally have negatively labeled others as “inferior,” such as those with AIDS, different skin color, indigenous ways, cultural practices, and religious or national status. Remember the things we did with slaves, Native Americans, Jews in the Holocaust, gays, and currently with those people crossing or wanting to cross the borders into this country? I believe now we are reverting to a prejudice similar to these listed above, and this is now against people with “mental illness.”

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