As neuropsychologists, we applaud the recent focus on strengthening access to mental health care as a critical component of the national gun-safety conversation. Dementia syndromes, traumatic brain injury, severe depression, and psychosis are all brain conditions that can significantly affect an individual’s judgment. For some, access to guns can place them, and others, in danger, with heartbreaking results.
Years of budget and health insurance cutbacks leave many people with severe mental and cognitive disorders without sufficient supports or treatment. We appreciate recent Globe pieces highlighting the lack of parity between available mental health services and other medical services (“A list far too long,” Metro, Jan. 11) and the high rates of suicide when gun access is easy (“Who guns really kill,” Ideas, Jan. 20).
As behavioral health care professionals, we know that most people with mental health needs are not violent. But mental health conditions require treatment. Early treatment for severe conditions reduces the risk that problems will escalate to tragedy. Violence-reduction measures that include improved access to mental health care would help.
We must also ensure that state and national health care reforms make parity a reality, and include mental health screenings, evaluations, and treatment within health care systems. As a nation, we can tackle mental health and gun safety for children and adults.