January 09, 2013

Crazy List part 2

An anonymous commenter wrote the following thoughts about a previous post:

I guess I'm wondering if we would have . . . a decrease in those willing to seek treatment for the fear of losing the privlage. I do have a permit to cary a weapon and if I thought I would lose that permit by going to the hospital for help, I'm not so sure that I would go. I have been a hunter since I was 12 and value my permit as much as my drivers licens. I'm wondering how many people would try to push through it instead of getting help if losing there permit was seen as being a punishment for being mentaly ill?
I realized when I wrote the original post that a decrease in seeking treatment could be an unintended outcome, but I decided not to address it.  My thinking was that I can only put so many concepts in a single post before my reader gives up on the post.

But now that this person has asked the question, let's talk about it!

Please note that people who are involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility, because they are a danger to themselves or to others, are already prohibited from possessing, using, manufacturing, controlling, selling or transfering firearms under PA law.  These people would already be labelled as "mental defectives" (!) under federal law, and prohibited from purchasing firearms when a background check is performed.  Thus my proposal would have no effect in this situation.  The change I propose would only affect those who admit themselves voluntarily

That being said, I would like to address two things from the comment.

First, the commenter says, "if I thought I would lose that permit by going to the hospital for help, I'm not so sure that I would go."  It's really not likely that you would need admission to a hospital for help with depression.  There are many other treatments for depression besides a hospital stay.  You could get help from a psychologist, psychiatrist, an outpatient program, or even your primary care physician.  You could be treated via talk therapy or medication.  According to WebMD,  over 90% of depression is treated on an out-patient basis.

Second, I'd like to discuss the commenter's assertion that her/his carry permit was just as important as her/his driver's license.  I tried to picture how that would feel:  What if  admitting myself to the hospital for suicidality would result in losing my driver's license? 

Please bear with me now as I try to respond to this honestly.

My gut response was that, of course, I would still admit myself.  After all, if I didn't get into a safe environment, there would be no more driving anyway.  Or sleeping, or eating, or anything.  Because I would end up dead if I didn't get into the hospital.

After some more honest consideration, however, I wondered if I wouldn't try to "push through it instead of getting help," as the commenter suggested.

Because here's the thing.  If I admitted myself to the hospital, I would do so under the assumption that it would stop me from killing myself. And that I would eventually be released.  It would be very important for me to have my driver's license when I left the hospital, especially because I live in a rural area where driving is a necessity. 

So maybe I would not admit myself if I thought I'd be released and then not have my driver's license.

But, dear commenter, I'm afraid I have to reject the idea that guns are as important as drivers' licenses for many Americans, and guns would not be a consideration when seeking voluntary admission to a hospital for suicidality.  Most depressed people would not worry about losing their guns, because they simply don't have any.

I formed this opinion from statistics in the following articles:

There are more women than men in the United States.  Women suffer from depression at roughly twice the rate of men.  So I think it's safe to say that more than two thirds of depressed people in the US are women.

Another study finds that 45% of men own guns, whereas only 10% of women own guns.  So it looks like only a small percentage of depressed people own guns.

And remember that per WebMD, only about 10% of depression cases require hospitalization.

It appears that the loss of firearm privileges would affect only about 2% of depressed people.*  And I would expect that an even smaller percentage would be as passionate as the commenter about potential loss of their Second Amendment rights if they were considering admission to the hospital for suicidality.

So, in answer to the anonymous commenter, I do not think that my proposal to add voluntarily admitted people to the no-gun database would much decrease the likelihood of seeking treatment for depression.


* I tried to come up with a formula to represent what percentage of the population would actually be affected by my proposal, but I'm a word person, not a numbers person.  This is how I did it.  Feel free to correct me!

women - 66% of depression cases  x  10% hospitalization  x  10% own guns
men - 33% of depression cases   x  10% hospitalization   x   45% own guns


for women  -  .66 x  .10  x  .10   =   .0066   = my proposal affects .007 of depressed women or 0.7%
for men  -  .33  x  .10  x  .45  =  .01485   =  my proposal affects .015 of depressed men or 1.5%

add depressed women and men  -  0.7%  +  1.5%   =  2.2%


  1. I would just like to add that there are too many variables. The biggest variable is those people who reach a stage of detachment, not just being a danger to ones' self. Who will fall off that cliff and when they will do it will always be unpredictable. They just have access to more efficient weapons. That's the only thing that can be controlled. No one needs to own automatic weapons. Peace.

    1. You're right, Becky, one variable that can for sure be controlled is the type of weapon the person can legally get. But if some people are added to the no-gun list, I hope it will combine with other prevention methods in a whole package to prevent at least some instances of gun violence.

      Thanks for sharing your view!

  2. Heather Dalrymple13 January, 2013 13:11

    Hey Pam! I LOVE your work! i didn't know what a wonderful writer you are! you GO girl! well, i absolutely HATE the term "mental defective" as I see you obviously do, by your apostrophe. PLEASE! where do they get off? They're above us, simply because they don't have a diagnosis? I've read up on this, and just because people don't seek help, and don't have a diagnosis, doesn't mean they don't get depressed. Pretty much everyone has had an episode in their life where they've considered suicide, or they will in the future. Now, having said that, I don't want to be on "a list" either, and I also agree with your statement about getting help being the most important thing, over anything else, because if you're not alive, you won't need a license or a gun permit anyway. I guess I never thought of the prospect of what this list would actually do, and now, thinking of people not getting help, and perhaps even killing themselves because they don't want to be on this list, and be even further stigmatized, this really scares me. I think it weighs in very heavily, especially with men. I could go on and on about this, but the last thing I will say is that this country is in big trouble if it happens, and we need to pray for our politicians, and our troops and ALL of our citizens. equality for ALL men!! pray pray pray

    1. Thank you so much for your very kind words.

      I think there's going to be a list of some kind, whether we like it or not. I just hope it is confined to those who have already been a danger to themselves or others and doesn't include everybody who has ever sought treatment. That would be a very bad idea.

      The important thing, I think, is to remember that this list, by itself, won't stop gun violence. It has to be just one part of an strategy that addresses the problem from many perspectives. Let's hope Vice President Biden's plan won't go overboard on mental illness when he presents it this Tuesday.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Heather.