What Your Patients are Hearing

Myths debunked around guns, mental illness, and video games


 

For some Americans, fears surrounding random gun violence are all too common.

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In fact, a poll of people aged 13-24 years released earlier this year showed that, for young Americans, fear of gun violence ranks higher than the fear of climate change, terrorism, and rising college costs.

After nearly every mass shooting, the specter of mental illness comes up as a possible explanation. America’s rate of gun-related deaths is eight times that found in the European Union, according to Fareed Zakaria of CNN. “Does America have eight times the rate of mental illness?” he asked in a recent special episode of his public affairs show, “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” “Where is the disconnect?”

Mr. Zakaria went on to examine the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, in which a 28-year-old gunman with no history of mental illness killed 35 people and injured 18. After that incident, Australia sponsored a buyback program and eliminated more than 600,000 weapons. Afterward, the rate of gun-related homicides and suicides in Australia reportedly fell.

He also explored possible ties between video games and gun violence by examining the video game phenomenon in Japan. He reported that in Japan, a country of about 127 million people, about 13 people died in gun-related murders in 2016. Meanwhile, that year in the United States, the per-capita gun homicide rate was 300 times higher.

Finally, he examined the gun culture in Switzerland, where there are about 28 guns per 100 people. But gun laws in Switzerland are strict: Everyone who buys a gun must pass a background check. The country has citizen militias, and soldiers take home their weapons – but not their ammunition.

“We in America have been remarkably passive when it comes to gun violence,” Mr. Zakaria said. “One of the most important tasks for a government is to keep its citizens – especially its children – safe. Every other developed country in the world is able to fulfill this mandate. America is not. And the greatest tragedy is we know how to do it.”

Veterans’ friendship “like family”

John Nordeen and Kay Lee are on the far side of 70. During their youth, some of which was spent serving together in the Vietnam War, the two men forged a friendship. But back stateside, they lost touch.

In 2015, after years of searching by Mr. Nordeen, they reconnected. In a recent interview with NPR, they described their experiences in Vietnam and its aftermath.

“Our platoon went from like 29 guys to 10 guys in 2 days. So, the guys that were left, we had even stronger bonds because we had survived this together,” Mr. Nordeen said. The intense feeling of togetherness was tempered by equally intense feeling of the loss of their platoon mates.

The loss lingered for Mr. Nordeen once he returned home. “When you lose friends, you develop a hard exterior, and you don’t want to make friends with anyone else. So I don’t have a big circle of friends. I think that’s just one of many hang-ups I brought home with me.”

Mr. Lee concurred. “When I got home, most of the time I tried to forget the whole experience and not think about it too much. And I didn’t try to contact anyone because I’m not sure if you guys wanted to be contacted.”

It took years, but the two reunited. The reconnection has been welcomed by both men.

“It’s hard to describe, but the friendship and the bond that you form during battle is different than most friendship,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s like family now, so I’m very grateful for your effort to find me.”

Mr. Nordeen agreed. “Well, I feel like I’m a treasure hunter, and I found the treasure when I found you.”

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