Just as the battle over healthcare reform finally winds down, the country has already engaged in a new debate: gun control and mental health. Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, the Obama Administration has made gun control one of its priorities. Although there are those for and against these efforts, the one thing everyone can agree on is that things need to change.
While it’s no secret that there are criminals and felons who use guns in violent crimes, what Sandy Hook was able to clearly illustrate was that mass shootings in particular over the years have typically been committed by mentally ill individuals.
That and the documented history of mental health resources being cut dramatically all across the country has caused even more people to step up to publicly voice their concerns that while gun control of some kind is necessary, so is the fight to maintain a stronger mental healthcare system. While not every mentally disturbed person commits such a crime, there is certainly plenty of evidence to show that these two issues overlap in ways that cannot be denied.
The journey towards effective solutions for gun control and mental health support won’t produce results overnight but with the many healthcare degree programs cropping up at campuses from coast to coast, there is no doubt that the next generation of college students will find themselves with plenty of opportunities to use their skills and training to improve the lives of patients not just in traditional healthcare but the mental health arena as well.
The San Francisco Bay Area is one place where dramatic cuts to the mental health system have been greatly felt by its residents. The already crowded homeless population only grew as a result of the many patients released among the public due to major budgeting cuts at mental health facilities. The need for solutions to this problem has led to the creation of many social, community and treatment center referral service programs, as well as a score of related degree and certification programs at Bay Area colleges and universities.
City College of San Francisco currently offers a Community Mental Health Worker Certificate program, designed to show students how to use their experiences and training to advocate on behalf of others, transform their communities into places that welcome collaboration in identifying local mental health issues while encouraging society to shift its perception of the mentally ill and the ways they receive assistance.
Through education and hands-on experience, students have the ability to play their own significant role in the mental health system by informing others and bringing attention to various causes that could greatly benefit from proper funding and public coverage.
Only time will tell what achievements can be reached on the issues of gun control and mental health but as long as these topics continue to be part of our daily conversations, there is hope that tragedies like Sandy Hook could be prevented at all costs.