The Famuan takes on mental illness

How many futile gun control arguments must we entertain before we realize that gun safety laws are only half the problem? How many mass murders will it take until we finally start stressing the importance of mental health education? How many more Aaron Alexises will we allow to take the lives of others before family members and friends finally start speaking up?

The horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., led to a firestorm of gun control debates over the subsequent months. However, they were of little avail, and eventually the fire smoldered. After listening to the arguments, it’s clear there is no plausible tactic to continue to honor our Second Amendment while ensuring that guns stay out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Yes, stricter gun laws are necessary, but we need to analyze all aspects of the issue: the firearms, the victims and the shooter.

The left-wing government has done all it can to secure the gun control aspect, and Americans are constantly seeking methods of self-protection, but the side that we’re failing to pay attention to is the shooter’s.

Following almost every mass shooting, there is a family member to speak out and say he or she noticed the shooter’s disturbed behavior but decided to remain silent. In the case of Alexis, the Navy Yard shooter, his friends who spoke to CNN reporters didn’t find anything alarming in his behavior. However, his father was aware of his anger management issues.

So, if family members are noticing these behaviors, why can’t we prevent these terrible incidents from happening? Why are these shooters not receiving the help they need?

The answer is simple. They are not speaking up.

For many families in the black community it’s an unwritten rule to not allow outsiders to know about private family affairs. This makes it hard for people seeking counseling to truly get the help they need because they cannot reveal all that is weighing on their minds and hearts.

This goes hand in hand with distrust for medical professionals. Due to incidences such as the Tuskegee experiment, individuals in the black community are wary of the integrity of medical professions. This suspicion also plays a fatal role in HIV/AIDS testing, when people are afraid to take medicine in fear that it will further harm them.

According to a 2008 survey conducted by the Office of Minority Health, 6.2 percent of non-Hispanic blacks received prescription medications for mental health treatment or counseling compared to 13.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Some say the deep-rooted religious dedication is what keeps many black people from seeking professional mental help. It’s not as visible as a broken leg, nor as discussed as diabetes or cancer, so people assume mental illness is not as detrimental to our health. They see it solely as an emotional and spiritual need to be supported by their family, friends and religious leaders, neglecting to seek psychological medical attention as well.

However, it is time to start educating ourselves about mental health and mental illness. We need to understand that if someone has serious psychological problems, it can not only affect their own health but the health of others as well.

The more we discuss the topic and educate people, the better it will be accepted by the community. If more emphasis is being put on mental health and awareness, more individuals will be able to receive the medical attention they need and senseless murders in the future can be prevented. This will lead to a generally healthier community.