As we are all processing the horrific events that occurred in Texas, as a psychiatrist and advocate for individuals suffering from mental illness, I beg you not to state this individual was mentally ill. We do not know enough information to come to this conclusion.
We know that individuals with mental illness are not more violent than peers without mental illness. We need to lean into the research, look at other countries that have successfully reduced gun violence, and utilize the data. Do not state the perpetrator’s name unless absolutely necessary. Do speak the names of those who lost their lives. Before utilizing mental illness in conversations and debates, look at the research and help us minimize the stigma toward those suffering from mental illness. They are vulnerable members of our society.
I think we can all agree that evil was involved. However, you conceptualize an act so disparate from social norms. We can never abolish evil; it has existed as long as mankind. We can limit access to deadly weapons or at least institute rational gun control measures.
I believe most Americans support rational gun control, including background checks and waiting periods at the least. We have seen measures to reduce and account for pseudoephedrine purchases at pharmacies with the intent to reduce the manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamines. This is a public health policy that both liberal and conservative-leaning Americans largely accept. Perhaps we could utilize other public health initiatives to craft change.
I truly believe we have a philosophical problem in this country resulting from a lack of acknowledgment that two or more things can be correct at any one time. Many people support people having access to guns with mitigation measures to attempt to keep the public safe and still believe that we need gun legislation now. These are not mutually exclusive ideas. We must stop the divisiveness among citizens and hold our public officials accountable.
Our collective approach to deviating from the mean, thus skewing any emotionally weighted argument to the extreme, is not allowing us to realize compromise. This drives us further apart. This lack of willingness to utilize critical thinking skills to approach difficult issues has stymied well-meaning efforts. I believe we all see that change is needed and already agree on many items.
I hope that those of us in medicine can use the skills polished over years of working from research to help come to evidence-based change to reduce gun violence.
Courtney Markham-Abedi is a psychiatrist.
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