Saturday, January 29, 2011

Staying Focused on Mental Illness Between Tragedies

Columbine High School was first, then Virginia Tech College, and now the tragedy  in Tuscon, Ariz. All of these deadly events had the same old story line: Young, distraught, students who have had enough purchased lethal weapons ranging from guns to bombs, and one morning, they went to class, killing too many innocent lives. And, oh, and don't forget that they each suffered from a type of mental illness.

It takes tragic events like these to open up discussion on the causes of  mental illneses. But in between these catastrophic events, mental illness is rarely talked about. The subject becomes taboo, and people tend it ignore it.

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns advocacy group claims that 30 states have failed to submit mental healthdocuments to the National Gun Background Check Database, according to a recent article by  The New Mexico Business Weekly.   Only 17 states have submitted more than1,000 mental health records. More than 1.5 million records remain missing.  This could be because some of those 30 states have not authorized sharing the records with the National Crime Information Center.

Jared Loughner, the gunman of the Tuscan tragedy, purchased shotguns from a local superstore. His  records on his previous drug abuse were never sent to the NCIC.

The fact that the majority of the states in this country are ignoring the  request made by the NCIC shows the lack of concern about mental illness, and the lack of support towards creating programs and databases to help people with mental illnesses. This specific database could be an excellent resource towards strengthening anti-gun laws, and creating programs and support groups. That way, mental illness will no longer be taboo. People can dialogue more about it and acquire a better understanding of people these illneses.

- Vivian Mikhail

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