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Are mental health tools effective in stopping violence?

Concomitant with the gun control issue is how to prevent violent people from committing acts of violence. Part of the frustration is that it's hard to get people with a propensity towards violence, and thus the potential to hurt others, in a safe place.

Part of the concern are mental health professionals themselves ( Psychiatrists and Psychologists resisted a New York State law that would require them to report patients who they felt had the potential to committ violent acts. They felt this would violate patient confidentiality and further restrain these people from seeking help.

New York State is not alone in having these types of laws ( Both the federal government and many states have laws that make it illegal to sell someone a firearm who they believe has a mental illness and has been committed to a facility.

Yet violent people still manage to get a hold of guns. Dome violent people.

Not all people with mental illnesses are violent. Statistics show that a vast majority of mentally ill people are not violent. In fact many of them are victims of violence (

Perhaps the association lies with the recent mass killings by young men who seemed to be delusional.

Adam Lanza, who shot 26 people at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in December 2012 was a loner. He lived at home with his mother and played violent video games. He then for into her gun safe, killed her and went on a killing spree (

Also in 2012, James Holmes walked into a movie theater in Aurora, CO and shot 12 people. Police found his apartment laden with incendiary devices that would take days to disarm (

Elliot Rodger, who liked 6 people in Santa Barbara earlier this year, was actually visited by a mental health professional who was concerned for his welfare ( He reported him to the ookice, who visited him, and took no action.

People get frustrated at rhe lack of solutions for dealing with these types of people. Yet there is a solution.

Many people are familiar with the term "5150" as the name of an album by the rock group Van Halen. In fact, it is a tool that allows a peace officer or mental health professional to hold involuntarily for 72 hours, a person who they believe poses either a danger to themself or others, or is gravely disabled (

This three-day restraint allows mental health professionals o evaluate the person. If necessary, that restraint can be extended for two weeks. Ultimately, a person can be restrained indefinitely if needed for treatment.

Unfortunately, this is not cut-and-dried. Jeff Deeny, a social worker writing in The Atlantic says this system has flaws (

Just because someone is committed for a 72 hour period doesn't mean it will change them. It spent mean that professionals will become more alert to a violent person's intentions, nor does it mean that further intervention will be successful in deterring a violent act.

In the wake of several mass shootings many people are liking to liberalize the ability to restrain a person for greater periods of time with less verification. Unfortunately, this would wreak havoc with civil liberties.

The answer is to he seen, and a work in progress. Perhaps more studying is needed, or perhaps a different tactic, like more regulation of violent weapons is needed.

Whatever the case, more study and scrutiny is necessary.

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