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Mental-Health Advocates: Don't Lump Our Cause In with Mass Shootings


Thursday, July 7, 2022   

The U.S. is trying to cope with another mass shooting after several people were killed at a holiday parade in Illinois this week. In Iowa, mental-health advocates want to stress the need for the public debate to avoid common misconceptions.

The recent wave of mass shootings has renewed calls for stricter gun laws, while opponents of that approach often focus on mental-health concerns.

Peggy Hubbert is the executive director of the Iowa chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. She said people who consistently tie mental health to mass shootings are obscuring the facts.

"People with serious mental illness," said Hubbert, "are much more likely to be the victim of violence than to be the perpetrators of it."

The motive behind Monday's shooting hasn't been fully established. But Huppert said common themes from past attacks - such as racism - aren't mental illnesses with a simple diagnosis.

NAMI says while support for more mental-health treatment is welcome, it shouldn't get in the way of common-sense reforms that promote gun safety.

Huppert also said she sees a mental health component that she said should get more attention - that these attacks create the potential for survivors, community members and the public at large to deal with trauma afterwards.

"When you enter a movie theatre, or grocery store or a church," said Hubbert, "you immediately scan to see where the exits are. And kids are thinking the same thing, because they're having active shooter drills in school."

As for added mental-health support, Huppert said there have been examples of improvements, including programs on college campuses. But she acknowledged that provider shortages in states like Iowa.

Congress recently approved the Safer Communities Act, which includes some bipartisan gun-control measures, along with mental-health funding. However, some advocates say the plan needs tougher provisions on gun regulation.

Disclosure: NAMI Iowa contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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