After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew Card, famously quipped that al Qaeda was “screaming” at a fence to let them in. But today, homegrown terrorists are in the mindset of social media, self-radicalization and systems failure. And they’re on track to drive another wave of extremism on the streets.
After decades of progress in combating domestic terror, we now face an acute health crisis: a shortage of mental health care and treatment providers to combat future deranged individuals.
The disconnect between national news coverage and the devastation of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in June 2016 in which 49 people were killed and another 53 injured is a stark reminder of this crisis.
Only weeks later, WND reported a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirming the reality of a mental health breakdown in the National Institute of Mental Health. The report found that the number of mental health care providers declined from 27,474 in 2009 to just under 25,000 in 2014. Part of the problem is that the federal government has an unfortunate habit of defunding research or supplying resources to mental health programs.
It’s been noted that the federal government accounts for 70 percent of U.S. funding for mental health care. If only that portion was redirected toward improving the health of our communities.
The increase in gun-related suicides and mass shootings in the last six years means our patients need access to the care they deserve, and the government has left them without. If we know anything, it’s that a healthy society isn’t one in which people don’t have access to mental health treatment, and we can no longer put the health of our constituents ahead of a misguided push to use guns to scare and control our nation.
The strong support we see from Americans in our efforts to secure firearms bans on the basis of mental illness is nothing short of a staggering vote of confidence from the public, and an implicit rejection of the gun lobby and its violent agenda.
This could create a clear roadblock to next year’s proposed law that would require all young people who receive a gun purchase authorization from their parents or guardians to obtain a mental health screening. The National Rifle Association (NRA) will be forced to either concede this public majority, or face more than a little backlash.
In addition to the continued influx of violence in our schools and public places, other tragic events this year have had an impact on mental health. In March, a Queens teenager who is pregnant was found dead on a beach at Queens Lake. With more reporting on the cause of death and why it happened, this tragedy may be linked to the widespread mental health crisis.
In June, I had the opportunity to talk about mental health to the media, in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, in which 32 people were gunned down. I asked the media if there would be a similar pattern in Virginia and to find out where the victims were clustered. I received calls back from local stations, not understanding why I was so confused, when I said more news stories may be needed on someone who died just a few miles from their school.
When Virginia Tech closed its doors it also closed a door for anyone seeking mental health care. It’s rare for news to reflect something like a wave of mental health hate crimes; the shooting two days after my talk was concerning. “It’s just all getting out of hand,” one caller claimed, referring to the rhetoric the entire nation had been consumed with.
Another caller reported that he and others were attempting to discuss the issue of domestic violence before the next grand jury meeting in Lynchburg. They were very soon told there was no more time and they needed to leave, given that one of the men involved in the attack was too sick to attend.
The attacks at Western High School and a Virginia Tech graduate are especially tragic because of the mental health needs of the victims that resulted in their horrific deaths. Without sufficient mental health treatment and care, these individuals would not be going through what they were going through, unless they had firearms.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) claims that these tragedies occur when a mentally ill person gets a gun and then exhibits a violent reaction. But these were not individuals who obtained a gun because they wanted to carry out an attack but rather for the delusional ideology that leads some to act with violence and anger.
A lifetime of psychological and other abuse, most likely without their parent’s knowledge, contributes to a profound sense of anxiety. They react with volatile outbursts of anger. The challenge of gun safety is not just fighting violent