Commentary: Fight violence, not the mentally ill

The horrible school massacre in Newtown, Conn., has sparked political debate about the availability of guns, but also about how the nation treats people with mental illness.

“We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun,” President Barack Obama said in the wake of the tragedy.

Remarkably little is known about the mental condition of the killer, Adam Lanza, a reclusive young man who killed both his mother and himself that day. It is known that the mother had expressed fears about his mental health.

Amid the debate about background checks and records on gun buyers, it has been noted that many states don’t report the names of people who have been labeled dangerously mentally ill and might potentially buy a gun.

In a new GHN Commentary, Ellyn Jeager of Mental Health America of Georgia argues that whatever the answer is to violence, creating a national database of people with mental illness is not it.

“A database containing the names of people with mental illnesses would be impractical, stigmatizing and ineffective,’’ Jeager writes. “There is no evidence that such a database would effectively control or limit violent behavior. People with mental health conditions are no more likely than others to commit homicides or other violent acts.’’

What’s needed is “adequately resourced and recovery-based community care,’’ she says.

Here is a link to her Commentary.