We Need an Open Dialogue About Mental Health

Let’s shift the pro and anti gun sentiments and current politicized deadlock to creating a solution

Let’s look at things a little differently and shift from the Second Amendment argument to the First Amendment. The following opinion is meant to examine a small segment of the population, i.e. unstable persons with clear violent intent. As a former mental health professional for the Crisis Response Team, I witnessed daily pleas by family members and loved ones concerned for the safety of someone who is making threatening remarks to harm themselves or others. Calls to police, county attorney and public defender’s offices, and psychiatric hospitals were very similar. An emotionally unstable person had a gun or an arsenal of guns and was threatening to kill a lot of people. Sadly, unless the person’s intent was imminent as defined in the Montana Mental Health Code, there is nothing law enforcement or mental health professionals can do other than a welfare check and mental health evaluation. In many cases this has occurred multiple times, and usually the person is released from the ER or jail because the threats were not “imminent.” The responses from police, judicial and mental health systems appears to be a weak merry-go-round of “there’s nothing we can do” because of how the mental health statute is worded. See Montana Code Annotated 53-21-102 Definitions and (7) Emergency Situation, and 53-21-129 Emergency situation/petition/detention.

We need to have an open dialogue about mental health. Please engage your legislators to examine the definition and criteria of what constitutes an “Emergency Situation.” This needs to be changed at a state and national level. We need the cooperation of the National Rifle Association and the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI) to respectfully move forward with changing the verbiage for involuntary civil commitments. Let’s shift the pro and anti gun sentiments and current politicized deadlock to creating a solution.

Sonya French, MSW