Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

Firearms and Mental Health-an Iffy Connection

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Apr 3, 2013 7:42 PM

We psychologists evaluate people for their stability, emotional safety and maturity with regard to handling firearms. They need our report or letter of approval to go to police academy, become a security guard, or something like that, especially if they've already had a history of any kind of gun trouble, criminal activity or psychiatric history. Of course, this policy is the ideal because most gun owners and users, even in a professional capacity, never undergo any kind of psych evaluation.

The basic method of evaluation is interviewing but there are some tests which many psychologists employ. I like interviewing, if the psychologist knows to look for what is said, how it's said, what is not said, body language, and history plus present mentality, including how the person learns and processes emotions and info.. The MMPI is the most common of the tests and it asks hundreds of questions which have been answered in a particular way by samples of people in various categories. It's empiracal, not frequently updated, not very transparent and doesn't really predict much, as far as I have seen over the years. Projective techniques, like the inkblot tests and telling stories about pictures, are used to look for hostility, depression, and temper, also, all of which really don't predict physical violence well, actually.

Here's the problem. As good as a particular psychologist may be at reading people, in general, it's still impossible to predict how someone which react in all scenarios.However, even if we do see signs of danger, the law and the vicissitudes of real life don't give us control over everything which could happen. We can suggest counseling, or even require it sometimes, try to assure lack of drug and alcohol involvement, and not recommend someone for a job, but our hands are tied legally and ethically if there's no "proof" that the person could be harmful. Look at all the mass murderers in recent times whose counselors, medical doctors and psychologists didn't scream out or make arrangements which stopped them. So, I'm not saying we're dispensible, just that we're not enough and that when it comes to restricting firearms to people with no serious mental health history, there's really no guarantee that the right people will have guns and the wrong ones won't.

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