Mental health and gun laws

First aired on The Current (18/01/13)

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Aurora, Colorado. Newtown, Connecticut. These mass shootings have pushed the fight for stricter gun control laws in the U.S. back into the spotlight. Recently, the state of New York passed what is being touted as America's toughest gun control law, which -- among other things -- requires mental health professionals to report people they are treating who they believe are likely to be violent to themselves and/or others.

Now, Marvin Ross, author of Schizophrenia: Medicine's Mystery, Society's Shame and the Huffington Post's mental health blogger, says Canada -- whose mental health debates don't tend to revolve around gun control in the same way as the states does -- can learn something from New York's new law.

"I think it makes perfect sense," he told CBC's The Current.

He says the trick is to identify people who are severely mentally ill because frequently they do not know that they are suffering from a mental illness. By involuntarily treating them, he says, they can be prevented from deteriorating and possibly ending up homeless, going to jail, attempting suicide or becoming violent to themselves or others.

He compares it to Canada's approach with people suffering from severe dementia because of Alzheimer's disease.

"We don't allow them to wander the streets homeless. We don't allow them to live in back alleys. We provide them with humane proper treatment," he said. "And we need to start doing that to people with the most serious of mental illnesses."

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