Gun violence hits me close to home.
I once had a brother, a younger brother, Abid. He owned a less than perfect life in more than one ways. The place was Lahore, Pakistan; the decade was the 1980s, mother had cancer, the struggle, the suffering, her death and Abid suffered with her, perhaps more than her. She passed on and his struggles and issues, piled on.
We all tried to help, we made our own mistakes in the process, we all failed. We explored multiple venues including Psychiatric help and treatment for depression. Nothing worked. Abid succumbed to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Accident or suicide, we will never know. Mental issues or not, I do not know. What I know is that only one person was hurt on that ill-fated night and no one else.
In retrospect, he was probably depressed in a time when the mental illness of any kind was considered a taboo and there were hardly any psychiatrists available. He ended up seeing a General Physician, and the prescribed medicines only made him more groggy and did not help.
That mental health is getting blamed for American mass shootings is something which is not corroborated by the available data or by the experts in the field. The available data may even be to the contrary.
As a physician, I live my life in the evidence-based world. I will quote two examples of why research is essential.
CAST was a landmark trial looking to suppress extra heartbeats after a heart attack with certain antiarrhythmic drugs. The extra beats did decrease, but the death rate in the treated group increased significantly.
More recently the drugs to raise the good cholesterol though good in theory either showed no clinical benefit or actual harm.
The bottom line, unless backed by quality research, it remains a hypothesis.
In the United States, a country on top of the World with its R&D and evidence-based living, where is the research on Gun violence?
Well, it is not allowed by a “Dickey Amendment” and financial arm-twisting of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) since 1996. Interestingly in his later years, Jay Dickey, the congressman from Arkansas, had changed his position and became a vocal and written proponent of research into the American gun violence.
Jay Dickey and Mark Rosenberg of CDC, opponents, turned allies, co-wrote a famous Op-ed in The Washington Post in 2012 and said this,
“We were on opposite sides of the heated battle 16 years ago, but we are in strong agreement now that scientific research should be conducted into preventing firearm injuries and that ways to prevent firearm deaths can be found without encroaching on the rights of legitimate gun owners. The same evidence-based approach that is saving millions of lives from motor-vehicle crashes, as well as from smoking, cancer and HIV/AIDS, can help reduce the toll of deaths and injuries from gun violence.”
So who is responsible here? The mentally ill being blamed for the American gun violence scourge on a whim and without supporting evidence and research or the self-professed mentally sane rest of us who have chosen to block research on this issue and have repeatedly failed to implement measures to make a difference?
Who are the sane and who are the ill?