Congress to Discuss How to Prevent Gun Massacres


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“We can't tolerate this anymore,” President Obama  told families attending an interfaith vigil after the Newtown, Connecticut massacre of 26 school children and school administrators and teachers. “These tragedies must end and to end them we must change.”

The President said much the same after the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado.

Congress is expected to discuss strategies on  how to deal with massacres in the United States. The debate is expected to cover three areas: mental illness, gun availability, and violent entertainment.

Mother Jones reports that there have been 62 mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982, and 25 have taken place since 2006.

Of the 142 guns possessed by the killers, more than three quarters were obtained legally. The arsenal included dozens of assault weapons and semiautomatic handguns.

Half of the cases involved school or workplace shootings (12 and 19, respectively); the other 31 cases took place in locations including shopping malls, restaurants, government buildings, and military bases. Forty four of the killers were white males. Only one of them was a woman. The average age of the killers was 35, though the youngest among them was a mere 11 years old. (A majority were mentally ill—and many displayed signs of it before setting out to kill.

Read the rest of the story, Mass Shootings: Maybe What We Need Is a Better Mental-Health Policy at Mother Jones.

According to the National Institute of Health, an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.. Roughly 60 million people suffer from mental illness.

Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 — who suffer from a serious mental illness. In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada. Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time. Nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for 2 or more disorders, with severity strongly related to comorbidity.1

Mood disorders include major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder.

  • Approximately 20.9 million American adults, or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year, have a mood disorder.
  • The median age of onset for mood disorders is 30 years.
  • Depressive disorders often co-occur with anxiety disorders and substance abuse.

Major Depressive Disorder

  • Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44.3
  • Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.1, 2
  • While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.5
  • Major depressive disorder is more prevalent in women than in men.6

Dysthymic Disorder

  • Symptoms of dysthymic disorder (chronic, mild depression) must persist for at least two years in adults (one year in children) to meet criteria for the diagnosis. Dysthymic disorder affects approximately 1.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.1, This figure translates to about 3.3 million American adults.2
  • The median age of onset of dysthymic disorder is 31.1

Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.1, 2
  • The median age of onset for bipolar disorders is 25 years.5


  • In 2006, 33,300 (approximately 11 per 100,000) people died by suicide in the U.S.7
  • More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder.8
  • The highest suicide rates in the U.S. are found in white men over age 85.9
  • Four times as many men as women die by suicide9; however, women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men.10


  • Approximately 2.4 million American adults, or about 1.1 percent of the population age 18 and older in a given year,11, 2 have schizophrenia.
  • Schizophrenia affects men and women with equal frequency.12
  • Schizophrenia often first appears in men in their late teens or early twenties. In contrast, women are generally affected in their twenties or early thirties.12

Read more, The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America, at the National Institutes of Health website.

The University of North Carolina School of Medicine says, ”Often, the ill person is unaware that the symptoms are unusual, or that he or she should seek help. It can be distressing for family members and friends to realize that someone close is experiencing psychotic symptoms, and it may be confusing to try to get help.

A good place to start is the family doctor or a local mental health center. Mental health centers are usually listed in the telephone book, either in the yellow pages under "mental health services" or in the listing of community services numbers. The local Mental Health Association or the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness are also likely to have referral phone numbers, as well as information on local support groups for families. It is important to seek help from a mental health professional to deal with psychotic symptoms since early treatment can improve long-term prognosis of psychotic disorders.

Emergency Psychiatric Help

Under certain circumstances, it is important to seek emergency psychiatric help. The following are examples of actions or problems that indicate emergency psychiatric help is appropriate:

  • Expressing thoughts about suicide.
  • Hearing very disturbing voices, especially voices that command suicide or injury to self or others.
  • Experiencing uncontrollable anxiety.
  • Exhibiting manic or otherwise bizarre behavior, severe depression, disorientation, or extreme confusion.
  • Reacting unusually to psychiatric medication.
  • Feeling uncontrollable anger.

Emergency psychiatric help is available in a variety of ways:

  • The current case manager, therapist, or counselor at the mental health center is a good first choice if the person is already under treatment. Most mental health centers and clinics have 24-hour emergency numbers that may ring to a hotline or helpline or directly to a nearby hospital emergency room. It is a good idea to keep the emergency number handy so that it is easy to find in a time of crisis.
  • The 911 operator or the local helpline or hotline can be a good source of assistance if the person is not already receiving psychiatric care.
  • If the situation is very serious and no other help is available, call the local operator or 911 and ask for help from the police or the Sheriff.

What To Do If Someone With Psychotic Symptoms Refuses Treatment

. Here are some suggestions for helping someone experiencing psychotic symptoms:

  • Be yourself. This will help the person trust you and perhaps listen to your suggestions.
  • Give yourself and the person emotional and physical space. Respect the person's physical space. Avoid touching the person without express permission, even to give comfort. If the person becomes hostile or aggressive, suggest a cooling off period, emphasizing that you plan to return to the issue at hand when everyone is calmer. Leave yourself an avenue of escape if the person is agitated.
  • Calmly but firmly suggest that you take the person to see a doctor, therapist, case worker, or counselor for evaluation. Do not confront refusals or delusional material and do not argue, but continue to listen and to reiterate your suggestion. It may help to sit or stand beside the person while discussing this, rather than in a face-to-face posture.
  • Go with the person to the doctor or mental health center to provide additional information about when the symptoms started, what medications the person is taking, and to answer any questions that may arise. In a crisis, the ill person may not be able to answer these questions clearly, so your input will become very valuable.
  • If the person threatens or becomes violent, especially if there is a history of violence in the past, get help from the police or the Sheriff as necessary. Though hostility, threats and violence are very upsetting, it may be useful to remember that in many cases, these behaviors are a result of the illness and do not reflect the person's true feelings.

Involuntary Commitment

In very serious episodes of the illness, a person may need to be committed involuntarily to a hospital or other mental institution. There are different laws governing this process in different states in the U.S. The local mental health center, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Mental Health Association, or a family doctor can provide information on the laws governing the process of involuntary commitment in that state or region. In case of an emergency, the police or Sheriff's office will also have such information, but the training and ability of law enforcement officials to handle persons with psychotic symptoms varies greatly, so it is advisable to consult other sources first when possible.

For more information about patients' rights, or if law enforcement officers or magistrates are unresponsive during psychiatric emergencies, contact the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness or Mental Health Association.

Read: “What To Do If a Family Member or Friend Has Psychotic Symptoms” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine website.


Visit your local library for more resources.





1000 points of light - Students at Virginia Tech hold a candlelight vigil after the en:Virginia Tech massacre
Date: 17 April 2007
Author:alka3en of flickr


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