Letter: Gun control might cut shootings, mental health funds might not

February 15, 2013
By

How do we keep our children and ourselves safe?

I write to salute and disagree with Sandra Storey on gun safety and mental health. (“JP Observer: Newtown shooting hits home,” Jan. 18).

I salute her detailing how guns are a big part of JP. I bike daily past a 24-hour store where a hard-working Tibetan immigrant was killed. We don’t get him back to say a light “good morning.”

Note that deliberate gun violence tears our community apart more, while accidental gun deaths or suicide by gun kills just as dead. Gun safety legislation would help with the latter two perhaps even more than murders.

I agree with one-half of Sandra’s conclusion. Now is the time for “reasonable control of lethal firearms.” I support President Obama and Vice President Biden’s proposal nationally. I encourage people to work with the Mothers for Justice and Equality locally or, nationally, One Million Moms for Gun Control or the Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Thank you, Sandra.

As a mental health professional working in JP, with 35 years experience, I wish not to say the next paragraphs. It tears me apart.

Ms. Storey calls on us to “promote mental health services.” The human and fiscal cost of mental health services is the white elephant in the room. It is hugely expensive and well-intended, but this elephant has not been shown, scientifically speaking, to be helpful in reducing violence.

I might go even further and say that mental health care, as a whole, may be reducing JP’s collective mental health. See John McKnight’s book “Careless Society” on professional services sucking money out of poor communities, and Robert Whitaker’s book “Mad in America” about the overall downsides of psychotropic meds and diagnosis.

Stated positively, we need more community to prevent murder: jobs; productive connections between teens and adults; a friendly JP where Columbine killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris or Newtown killer Adam Lanza would not be teased and ignored. There are all sorts of wonderful community-building techniques and places—Emotional CPR, anger management and school team-building for whole groups; Teen Empowerment; City Life/Vida Urbana; JP New Economy Transition; Footlight Club theater; etc. Most of these are eking out survival on pennies while the white elephant gets ducats.

David Webster, OTR/L, Sc.D

Jamaica Plain