After mass shootings, we often hear pro-gun politicians coming forward with prayers and vague assertions that improvements to mental health — without any adjustments to gun laws — will prevent a “next time.” However, an outright failure to even provide adequate mental healthcare in Mississippi shows that these promises are no more than excuses.
Following the horrors of El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, gubernatorial Republican candidate and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves appeared to care with a tweet that stated, “We see horror on the news every day. Suicide rates for young Americans are at record highs.” He further attempted to emotionally bandage the situation by saying “true evil” was the root of the violence. Reeves performs sympathy but has no apparent intention of curbing the issues that are critical to the safety of Mississippians.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves found on Sept. 4 that the state of Mississippi had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal civil rights law, by providing inadequate mental healthcare. Instead of providing community-based care and personal psychiatric help for those with the most severe cases, the state institutionalized patients and isolated them in hospitals. Though the subpar and inhumane care can be attributed to a lack of budget, this excuse is as inadequate as the response Tate Reeves gave to his Democratic counterpart, Jim Hood.
A spokesman for Tate Reeves claimed, “Like the rest of the national Democrats, Hood will find a way to blame Republicans for every problem under the sun for the next two months. This blame game is just more partisan politics from a liberal Democrat.” However, mental healthcare is not an issue that affects its patients or Democrats ー it is the crutch with which the Republican party upholds their response to gun violence.
The Center for Disease Control found that two-thirds of gun-related deaths in the U.S. are suicides. Instead of only looking at the perpetrators in cases of gun violence, we need to consider the victims: people with mental health disorders are up to 10 times more likely to be victims of gun violence than those without.
Ignoring the patterns of violence toward those affected by mental illness in our state by offering only prayers and no claim to action does nothing to prevent future harm.
Even though Judge Reeves’s decision focuses on the worst cases in Mississippi hospitals, a lack of funding through our mental health services reduces the capacity for students to find consistent and accessible care. The University Counseling Center received backlash after limiting the number of appointments to 10 in a year, but that is only if you can get an appointment ー I’ve had peers wait two months to access counseling services on campus. The University Counseling Center offers walk-in appointments, but for those with ongoing mental health issues, this care is not sustainable.
Coming from the candidate of a party whose sole response to issues of gun safety is to improve mental health services, Reeves is failing the security of Mississippians in daily life and in response to any future tragedies.
Do I believe that better mental healthcare is the only solution to gun violence? Certainly not. However, I am certain that tying both of these issues together and letting them sink to the bottom of the policy pile will only serve to wound our community further.
Katie Dames is a junior international studies major from St. Louis, Missouri.