I didn’t know the title of the theme song for the long-running television show MASH, but Tom did. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Tom could name the song, Suicide Is Painless, and sang along with it whenever it played on the radio.
I hadn’t given much thought to suicide before bipolar became a third party in our marriage. Tom and I’d agreed before we married that we didn’t want guns in our home.
I’d grown up with gun racks and loaded rifles in pick-up trucks in rural Kansas. Tom was taught to hunt as an adolescent and obtained sniper status for the military. Thankfully he was never asked to serve in that capacity.
The military was more interested in Tom’s intellect than his shooting ability and that afforded him comfortable working conditions. His military uniform was most often a suit and tie. He served as a key component of the Army’s Organizational Effectiveness Team. Instead of going to the field, his travel consisted of hotels where turn-down service was provided and a chocolate waited on his pillow.
There’s no disputing that mass shooting episodes are horrific. For the purposes of this blog, I’m addressing the 88 gun-related deaths that occur each day in the United States and not the mass shootings.
Of the 88 people that die each day from a gun: 90 percent of those deaths are suicide, a high portion of which are committed by seniors and individuals living in rural areas.
In cities, gun-related deaths are typically homicides. If we want to reduce this number, it comes to reducing gun-related violence on the streets.
Guns and gun legislation are topics we hear about daily. I couldn’t delay updating my research findings any longer. As recently as May 8, 2014 a team of investigative researchers at the American College of Physicians (APC) based all of their policy decision on scientific evidence.
Family doctors and internists have been identified as the first line of defense against both gun violence and suicide. The APC stated, “When it comes to reducing gun-related violence, physicians must play a vital role in making firearm safety a public health issue so that policy and law are based on scientific evidence.”
I’m in agreement with the APC. The United States will never have appropriate gun legislation while it’s tangled in second amendment rights.
The media has played into the mental health status of each mass shooting. We’ve watched them unfold in the news.
We’ve seen serious mental health issues connected to the shootings that should have been addressed years before these tragedies occurred. These incidents should have been no surprise to the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the shooter firing the weapon(s). The behaviors developed in the mind of a psychotic individual do not divulge over night.
Overall the mental health issues surrounding gun violence are in a complex area that requires a nuanced approach.
People with mental illness are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence. Individuals with mental illness who receive appropriate treatment are less likely to commit acts of violence.
Scientific Data Revealed: 32,000 deaths per year are caused by guns (roughly 11,000 to homicides and 19,000 to suicides).
Non-fatal gun-related injuries are more than double that of deaths.
My husband, Tom and I have often talked of the distorted truth regarding bipolar disorder and especially how the disease is misrepresented in the media.
The following facts about mental illness and violence were compiled by the American Psychiatric Association (1994). Fact Sheet: Violence and Mental Illness. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. The Fact Sheet has numerous citations and I’m happy to pass the individual sites on to anyone who’s interested.
FACTS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS AND VIOLENCE
Fact 1 – The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent.
Fact 2 – The public is misinformed about the link between mental illness and violence.
Fact 3 – Inaccurate beliefs about mental illness and violence lead to widespread stigma and discrimination.
Fact 4 – The link between mental illness and violence is promoted by the entertainment and news media.
FACTS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS AND VIOLENCE BY LEADING RESEARCH FACILITIES
“Characters in prime-time television portrayed as having mental illnesses are depicted as the most dangerous of all demographic groups: 60 percent were shown to be involved in crime or violence.” (Mental Health America, 1999)
“The vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness.” (American Psychiatric Association, 1994)
“The absolute risk of violence among the mentally ill as a group is small . . . only a small proportion of the violence in our society can be attributed to persons who are mentally ill.” (Mulvey, 1994)
“People with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime (Appleby, et. al., 2001). People with severe mental illness: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are two and one-half times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population.” (Hiday, et. al., 1999)
This blog is the first of a series about Tom’s and my many struggles to keep our home free
of guns. It should be simple but it’s not. I’ve spoken numerous times in multiple congressional committee meetings about the necessity of protecting the individual who wants to harm him or herself. A data base would not be difficult to set up nation wide and with volunteers such as myself, the data entry would be a free public service. I’ll discuss attempted suicides and how we’ve coped with the situation when it appeared in our lives.
Suicide and attempted suicide are difficult subjects to write about. I understand that sometimes the pain is relentless and there seems no place to turn. I fully understand how suicide can seem the only solution.
Suicide is anything but painless.