Mental Health Care Expert Responds to Obama’s Gun Control Plan

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KINGSTON -- One of the president's key points in reducing gun violence was beefing up mental health background checks to prevent firearms getting into the wrong hands.

“If we can continue to de-stigmatize mental health issues and get folks proper care and fill gaps in the background check system, then we can spare more families the pain of losing loved ones to suicide.”

As President Obama addressed the nation on his latest stance against the growing gun violence in America, one element is to beef up background checks to prevent the mentally ill from acquiring firearms.

Dr. Matthew Berger, a psychiatrist with Commonwealth Health, says one stigma for the mentally ill is the belief they are prone to violent acts.

“It is much more common for a patient who is a mental health patient to be a victim of a crime than actually commit a crime, the statistics are much higher in that direction,” said Dr. Berger. “Unfortunately, the ones we always see are the sensational one-in-a-million cases where it is a mental patient.”

Dr. Berger says his interpretation of Obama's plan is when a person is committed involuntarily for a potential mental health issue, then the doctor or hospital would report it to the federal government for that person's background check.

“I have some real concerns with that in terms of patients' rights and the government having a database of mental health patients which we're assured would not be used inappropriately, but it's very, very private,” said Dr. Berger.

That being said, Dr. Berger says Pennsylvania state law already prevents residents who have been involuntarily committed from having guns.

Under Act 77, the courts, state or county mental health workers must report that to state police for background checks.

Dr. Berger wonders what will be the physicians’ responsibility under Obama's federal guidelines.

“Do I have to report everybody I think is a danger to the FBI?” asked Dr. Berger. “That becomes a very slippery slope and a judgement call, so I think the devil is going to be in the details here.”

Dr. Berger says one good aspect of Obama's plan is the proposal of half a billion dollars to go to increased access to mental health care.

7 comments

  • Rand Cox

    THANK YOU Doctor for this article!!! I hope many more stand in civil protest against this discrimination against people with mental health issues being, killers. MILLIONS of Americans have some form of mental health illness and to various degrees. Let’s not punish and stereotype people with mental health issues because of the 1% that do crazy things!

    Every American with a mental health issue should be taking a stand right now in civil, non violent manner to protest this!

  • Jenna

    I would like to suggest to the doctor that decades long attempts to de-stigmatize severe mental illness has not made much progress. Even clinical depression, which is less stigmatized now, is still misunderstood by most people. Advocates for the cause of destigmatization and a whole lot of other people these days often assert that there is little association between mental illness and violence in order to change hearts and minds toward the cause. However, what they should have been doing all along is trying to help people better understand the brain diseases and disorders (such as schizophrenia) in which a small number of people DO become violent. The pervasive lack of comprehension of very complex and grave consciousness disorders (i.e. acute psychosis) that can arise from untreated or undertreated Sz, Schizoaffective, Bipolar, etc. is causing the vast majority of people to equate these disorders with criminality and evil. That in turn is causing this subset of people to be convicted and punished with incarceration unjustly. In continuing to emphasize a dissociation of violence and specified brain disorders (“mental illness”), advocates like the doctor is setting the cause back and abandoning the very people they should be trying to help and protect – who most of the time do not know they are gravely ill and cannot help themselves. Victims of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders have a right to have their diseases understood. These are not “mental health disorders”. They are very serious medical diseases and disorders that can be deadly in the form of suicide (often unintentional as a result of psychosis) or violence toward others (that is not a result of criminal intent as juries so often and wrongly determine).

  • Nota Sheep

    I enjoy attempts to summarize “gun nuts” as people with Paranoid Personality Disorder. I will say this, and of being of sound mind and thoughts. I have deployed with the military overseas twice, I have been employed in the metal health field and I now work in law enforcement. I have seen the worst that the human race to do onto others. I have interviewed thousands of convicted felons and asked about their crimes. I will not be one of the sheep to allow people like this to take my life, my families life or any life of someone else unlawfully. Even if I was not Law Enforcement, I would want my loved ones to be prepared and armed so they may defend themselves in the event of a robbery, rape, attempted homicide etc. It is our Constitutional right as Citizens of the US. Lastly, what defines Mentally ill? What if a war vet had some issues when he came home and went through a rough time after deployment. After serving his (or her) country and doing what many could never imagine doing. The veteran was able to get post deployment counseling and help to get back on track, but is now blemished because he has PTSD? That same person may be the same Trooper, Officer, Fireman, Public Official, Mental Health Counselor, or whatever and serves you proudly in the civilian world now. Should that person be stripped of his constitutional right to keep and bear arms? That person should be banished, but the drug dealer down the road who got off with a misdemeanor is walking around town with a gun on his hip because he is not a convicted felon. That same drug dealer who may be a gang member. The same drug dealer who is able to keep and bear arms. The Veteran with a history of metal health…. nope! Not only that that mans HIPA and privacy was violated by an order from the President. The least popular President ever!!! Not congress, the house… the people…….nope! One guy. Get your heads out of the sand people!! Guns aren’t the problem and I have news for you…bad guys cand and will get guns whenever they want. They are everywhere. you will never be able to keep them out of the wrong hands. Good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns.

  • M Torch

    The $500,000,000 is a pretty big payoff to turn all psychiatrists into brown shirts. You’ve been warned.

    • jimbrony

      I didn’t know our country had an extra half-billion sitting around not doing anything. Maybe he’ll just have them print more $$$.

  • Robert Mills

    Obama is a fool. He has an agenda to follow just like the advice he follows from Iranian Valerie Jarrett. Little by little he must “Disarm the public”.

    • Maybe...

      DSM 301.0 Paranoid Personality Disorder
      Symptoms of Paranoid Personality Disorder
      According to the DSM-5, there are two primary diagnostic criterion for Paranoid Personality Disorder of which criterion A has seven sub features, four of which must be present to warrant a diagnosis of PPD:
      Criterion A is: Global mistrust and suspicion of others motives which commences in adulthood. The seven sub features of criterion A are:
      1.The person with PPD will believe others are using, lying to, or harming them, without apparent evidence thereof.
      2.They will have doubts about the loyalty and trustworthiness of others,
      3.,They will not confide in others due to the belief that their confidence will be betrayed.
      4.They will interpret ambiguous or benign remarks as hurtful or threatening, and
      5. Hold grudges,
      6. In the absence of objective evidence, believe their reputation or character are being assailed by others, and will retaliate in some manner
      Most gun nuts could hold this diagnosis. You got what you asked for when you threw mentally ill people under the bus.

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