Given the tragic events of yesterday (February 14), it seems inevitable that another political debate is in the works, and both sides are polishing up their arguments. One side will argue constitutional rights and that criminals, by definition, do not follow laws, while the other will argue that tougher gun laws will stop guns from reaching the hands of those who would harm others and that hindering criminals from getting a gun might just stop them looking for them. Another inevitable bit of jargon that will come up is the concept of Mental illness, though anyone who watches the news may have figured out by now that politicians use mental health as an excuse at worst and an afterthought at best, they never really act on anything they say about it.


The problem is that the mental health crisis goes far deeper than just shootings. It's a veritable rabbit-hole of nastiness that can lead to some of the worst human suffering imaginable. If my language and judgment seem harsh, it's because I am very passionate about this issue. In addition to having suffered a depressive episode in my life, I have also been told by a counselor that I am probably on the Autism spectrum, so this hits close to home. As many will emphasize in the gun control side of the debate, the rate of gun violence in America is staggering, with over 30,000 deaths per year, on average. However, the suicide rate, often linked to mental illness, is larger, averaging out at almost 45,000 per year.

Worse yet, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, for every completed suicide, there are 25 attempts. Also, in regards to the 30,000 annual gun deaths mentioned above, two-thirds are suicides. The suicide rate has also increased by at least 25 percent in less than 20 years.

Homelessness, prison and other misfortunes

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 26 percent of homeless people living in shelters have a serious mental health problem. That number rises 20 percent higher when addiction is added as a mental health disorder (and most professionals do classify addiction as a mental health condition).

The prison rate is also frighteningly high, with one-fifth of state prisoners having a recent history of mental illness, and 70 percent of those in the juvenile justice system have a mental illness. Having a mental health problem makes one more likely to be victimized than others. This statistic continues to rise if the person is young, has severe issues, or is female.