Letters to the Editor

Mental illness can affect anyone

In responding to the letter from Clair Englander (“Thriftway has crossed a line with gun owners,” July 9), I do not wish to debate the ethics of gun control or concealed weapons. I would like to discuss the statement that if a gun massacre happened, “it would not be one of our Vashon gun owners” but “some mentally ill person.”

There are a couple of ways I find that statement problematic. One, it assumes the mentally ill are a totally different class of humans that have no connection to the rest of us. People are not born “mentally ill.” The mentally ill are not a “them.” They could be our friends, family members or maybe ourselves, whenever life difficulties and neurochemical imbalances align to overwhelm a person’s capacity to cope and distort their grasp on reality. There’s no rule to predict who suffers like this. More people than we might imagine. Why not the most conscientious of gun owners?

Also, though I don’t have any statistics in front of me, I do know there have been plenty of shootings perpetrated by individuals without any history of mental illness who nonetheless “went postal.” They had one stress too many, one loss too many, piled on top of an already shaky self esteem. Are we all so confident in our inner strength to say this couldn’t be us?

If we insist on seeing others as the problem, we set up a dangerous situation. Perhaps conscientious gun owners should also own their own vulnerabilities and those of the people in their households who might access their guns and plan for what should be done with their guns if the individual(s) become depressed or erratic in a way that is worrisome.

And perhaps all of us have a reason to show compassion to those who suffer from mental illness and advocate for the best care they, or maybe we, can receive.

— Michele Houston

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