Obama's Gun Reform and Mental-Health Care

In the midst of the president's gun-reform efforts, Colorlines' Seth Freed Wessler looks at how his actions could affect our nation's approach to mental illness.

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As President Obama pushes his gun reform, many in the field of mental-health care worry about how the changes will affect their patients, writes Seth Freed Wessler on Colorlines.

Advocates for people with mental illness find themselves in a bind: on the one hand attempting to fend off the blind conflation of people with mental illness and a propensity toward mass slaughter and on the other, recognizing that moments like this present the rare opportunity for expanding the mental health safety-net.

To the relief of mental health advocates, President Obama seemed to understand this tension well. When the president did talk about mental health, he was cautious not to suggest that clinical insanity kills children, while carefully calling for more support for widely accessible psychiatric care. "We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun," he said.

With this as a starting place, the president’s opening gambit on guns proposes some expansion of mental health care access while allaying fears among the mental health professionals that the overwhelmingly non-violent population they work with will become the scapegoats of a larger problem. Advocates say they are hopeful this moment will provide an opportunity for expanding an underfunded mental health system.

Read Seth Freed Wessler's entire piece at Colorlines.

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