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'Hate is not a mental illness' experts say gun violence doesn't relate to mental health

Posted at 6:30 PM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 19:30:26-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — After a shooting like we just saw in Texas seemingly everybody is searching for answers on how to prevent this in the future.

Many politicians are now eyeing improving mental health services as one solution.

After the Uvalde shooting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called it a mental health issue.

Earlier this month, Nebraska Gov.Pete Ricketts pointed to mental health on CNN when asked about the Buffalo grocery store shooting.

“There’s a study last year that showed these shooters have a lot of mental health issues and that’s one of the things i think we can do more on,” said Ricketts.

But three mental health experts — one who works at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, another at Nebraska Medicine and the leader of mental health agency Community Alliance do not see it that way.

“Hate is not a mental illness, we have to quit equating gun violence to mental health issues,” Carole Boye, CEO of Community Alliance.

Celeste Akers with UNMC helps lead people to mental health resources and agrees.

“It’s a very small number of mass shooting perpetrators that have shown to have a mental illness,” said Akers.

In fact, those with issues are more likely to be hurt.

“People with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than they are the perpetrators of violence,” said Boye.

However, all three women in the mental health field today told 3 New Now they’d welcome additional money, saying it could reduce suicide and domestic violence.

“I think we are so sorely underfunded in lots of ways that it certainly wouldn’t hurt things,” said Jennifer Sparrock, manager of psychiatric emergency services at Nebraska Medicine.

And there still may be underlying mental health issues in relation to mass shootings whether that be survivors, folks watching on TV who then have to enter public space or students participating in mass shooting drills.

Sparrock says we as a society need to be mindful of all that and talk people through it and get them help if they need it.

“What is that experience like for our young folks and how we can help them feel safe in their day-to-day lives so it’s not something that causes them to be scared to go to school,” said Sparrock.

Nebraska still has plenty of gaps, including not enough providers or bed space and it’s tough to get services quickly.

The Nebraska Legislature did a variety of things this last session totaling over $100 million. That includes a 15% increase to provider rates and millions towards expanding mental health services through expanded education and facility capacity.

Akers said that their work will help with telehealth services in rural Nebraska.

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