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The Boston Globe



‘Mental illness’ is a broad term, not a divining rod to violence

The article on Massachusetts firearms laws and the reporting of mental health information provided a useful discussion of this complex issue (“A Mass. hedge in FBI gun checks,” Page A1, Jan. 28). However, as a psychiatrist, I am concerned with the repeated references to “mental health history” and “mental illness,” as if these are precise terms that point us to people at high risk for gun-related violence.

First, the term “mental illness” is broad and could apply equally to a person diagnosed with well-controlled, adequately treated panic disorder or to a person with a severe psychotic disturbance and concomitant substance abuse who refuses to accept treatment.

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