The rampant gun violence in the United States is often blamed on mental illness. The common perception is that only a deranged person can go on a killing spree. It remains the hottest topic for debate whenever there is a bloodbath in the country, such as the recent Las Vegas massacre. It might be possible that someone living with low mood for long and being unhappy with his or her life will take the drastic step of killing someone or committing suicide.
A National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) study of 2016 indicates that homicide or suicide offenders might have a history of depression. An older study investigated the link between the two and revealed that depression, and not mania, was responsible for violent crimes such as murder. Whether it is a premeditated attack or committed in the spur of the moment, someone with a history of depressive symptoms can relapse into aggressiveness that is not in sync with his/her personality. It only leads to regret later.
One such tragic incident that came to light recently involved William Scaccia Jr. who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression after his tenure in Iraq in the 1990s. Scaccia was charged with domestic violence and assault previously and he had tried unsuccessfully to buy a firearm. When he finally did, he shot his six-year-old son and himself. According to his wife, he was not in his right mind when he committed the heinous act.
PTSD, anxiety and depression are common in war veterans. Many war veterans returning from active duty find it extremely difficult to adjust to civil life. For some, the horrors of the war are hard to forget and they find themselves haunted by its memories. The odds of depression and other such mental disorders are elevated if there has been a family history.
Regulating firearm use in people diagnosed with depression
Depression is one of the commonest mental health disorders in the U.S. The most prevalent form of depression is major depressive disorder, which affects 16.1 million American adults, or nearly 6.7 percent of the total adult population in a given year. Depression affects not just a person’s overall health, but also impacts his or her productivity at work, school and home. It impairs social and personal relationships, making the individual feel worthless and hopeless.
However, a significant proportion of the population remains untreated. When certain risk factors such as substance abuse, traumatic past, disturbing environment at home, or bullying in school or work combine, the chances of a person committing crime are heightened. Statistics suggest that more people commit suicide with guns than those using it to kill others. This has been corroborated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report which mentioned that suicides by gun was responsible for about six of 10 firearm deaths in 2010, killing 19,392 Americans.
Suicide remains one of the leading causes of deaths in the U.S., and men are likely to take recourse to firearms to end their lives. Though other means such as overdosing on pills, hanging and poisoning are common, firearms are the most lethal. There is no turning back or reflecting at the last moment. When the trigger is pulled, the harm is irreparable. It is advisable to check a person’s criminal and health history before granting the license to use firearms as it may lead to deadly consequences.
Depression is treatable with timely intervention
Not all those who suffer from mental disorders cause harm to others. They should not be viewed as a threat to the society. Putting them behind the bars does not address the underlying problem and their mental health will deteriorate. One way to prevent suicides and murders at the hands of such people is by raising awareness about mental health and making health care services accessible to all. A timely treated condition will ensure a healthy life for the affected person. Depression is treatable provided one takes appropriate action on time.
By Barbara Odozi