Mass Shootings and Mental Health

Hi, just testing.

In the wake of this most recent tragic mass shooting in Florida, there has been much discussion about mental health. We have been told that the shooter was mentally ill and his behavior was predictive of violence. Yet no group that dealt with him seemed to be able to “connect all the dots” and move with collective evidence to detain him and remove his access to guns.

What’s not being discussed much (and should be because it is key) is that there were very significant barriers to detaining him and taking his guns away. Laws, as they exist to protect people’s rights, need to re-examine when a person presents as a danger to self or to others.
Here is my summation of what needs to happen as a cohesive prevention plan.

  1. People who have serious enough emotional and behavioral issues to be considered unsafe and unacceptable to participate in public institutions such as schools, government, military, workplaces, AND have made threats of violence should be required by law to undergo mental health treatment until the treating professional deems the person is no longer a risk.
  2. Comprehensive mental health treatment must be made available for such persons, regardless of the cost, and the mental health professional must be given unconstrained decision making regarding the length of treatment.
  3. IF the treating mental health professional feels a person is an imminent danger to self or others, the treating professional should be free and REQUIRED to report this without risk of liability.
  4. Once reported, laws should allow for civil detention of the person until such time as all the “pieces” of the person’s history can be gathered and a mental health professional and law enforcement can assess the level of present and future danger.
  5. Lastly, but gravely important, any person who has been identified through this process should not be allowed to have ANY proximity to firearms (i.e. should not own then, should not live in a home with firearms, should not be able to purchase firearms, and should not be in proximity to anyone with firearms).

Until the current constraints on mental health professionals and law enforcement with regard to persons who are considered dangerous are reduced and until there is a mandate that all the pertinent data on such persons be gathered and presented in a court before the person is released, it is unlikely persons such as Nikolas Cruz can be stopped and such tragedies prevented.
Judith Andrews, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist

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