St Alban’s Episcopal Church
Bolivar, Missouri
Saturday, May 28, 2022

So what about the issue of mental health?

Mental Health
Since we do know that our mental health affects what we think, how we feel, and what decisions we make, clearly someone with mental health problems may be involved with gun violence.

The majority of gun deaths in the USA are suicides. And suicide is a response to overwhelming emotional pain. Guns are not the most common way to attempt suicide, but they ARE the most deadly. If someone went to buy a gun, even if he was suicidal, he probably could. People in this circumstance rarely have criminal history. So background checks alone are not likely to prevent those deaths. Perhaps if family members or doctors recognize that a person is at risk for self-harm the “red flag” laws might prevent some gun deaths. But in fact, many people who kill themselves have no known “red flags;” all they have in common with others is easy access to weapons.

Retributive Violence
And what about theses angry young men who find it easy to use weapons of mass destruction for “revenge killings?” Hatred, racism, or addiction to guns, violence, and conspiracy theories, might well reflect mental health issues, broadly defined, but those who think and believe those things aren’t likely to seek help – being convinced that they are right to destroy an enemy. And men are far more likely to kill than women. And young men more than old ones. A psychologist friend of mine wrote, “Either the young men in this country are HUGELY sicker than anywhere else in the world, or their access to guns is the factor.” And what happens when they are referred to some counselor or therapist? Almost nothing. The Buffalo shooter just told the counselor he was “kidding.” And that was the end of it. And he was proud of having hoodwinked the therapist. It’s easy. They only interview the kid – not the many people who have had contact with him who might shed different light on the concern. But let’s say the counselor DID sense real danger. What then? What do we have available to de-program angry young men? Nothing. The Governor of Texas blamed this latest school violence, and all gun murders, on “mental health” issues, which is especially egregious since he CUT millions of dollars from his state’s mental health system’s budget this year.

The Rest of Us
First of all, people with mentally illness are far more often victims of violence and crime than perpetrators of it. But here’s the other thing I wonder about: What about the contemporary cultural narrative that everyone, especially those whoa re not like us, is out to “get” us, that everyone is a risk, that everybody we don’t know might be dangerous. What about the sense that there is no safety, no security and not even much hope for a future free from despair? Who is to suggest that our mental health crisis in the USA is not fueled at least in large part by this sense of hopelessness, violence, a gun-soaked culture, the fear of being gunned down, the awareness that not ONE life matters in this country (except the life of a fetus.)?

Mental Health Support Group
A couple of members of St Alban’s have asked that we begin a mental health support group in the fall. There has been such stigma within the church at large about having mental health problems and about seeking help for them – and even about taking medications designed to make people feel better. You know that we offer an office space to two therapists in our town for free.But we want to do more for our own people and for anyone else who needs a place and a group to encourage and support those who have diagnoses mental illnesses and for those who are afraid to seek help. Dr Lori Cohen will lead the planning to make this group both useful and accessible to all.
Other News
Please pray for Bolivar physician whom you may know, Dr Bill Donnell, who was taken to emergency surgery in Springfield last night for a brain tumor.And thank God for the successful surgery for Shannon Kruse – The tumor was confined to the prostate itself, with clean margins and no other soft tissue involvement. They should be home in a week or so!



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