If there’s one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on, it’s that mentally ill people should not have access to firearms.
But as lawmakers rush to restrict that access in the wake of recent mass shootings, mental health experts warn of unintended consequences: from gun owners avoiding mental health treatment to therapists feeling compelled to report every patient who expresses a violent thought.
“Many patients express some idea of harm to other people, everything from, ‘I wish I could rip my boss limb from limb,’ to, ‘I have a gun and want to blow that guy away,’” said Paul Applebaum, director of the Division of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at Columbia University.
Therapists usually interpret this sort of talk as part of the treatment process, experts say. But under a new law in New York, one of the strongest to be passed to date, therapists may feel compelled to report every instance of violent talk, lest they face legal consequences if something happens. And some say ordinary patients may wind up suffering the most.
“There’s one group of people who are gun owners who may reasonably or unreasonably think, ‘I’m not going anywhere near a mental health person, because if they misinterpret something I say as an indication I’m going to hurt myself or someone else, they’re going to report me and take away my guns,’” Applebaum said.
Hey, anybody that tells any person they don't know well that they feel like hurting somebody, jokingly or not, for any reason whatsoever, is a dumbass. That can be construed as a threat so easily it ain't funny and a threat can get you arrested in a heartbeat. It's just not a smart thing to do. It wasn't before and especially not now.