Murder and Mental Health – HIPAA Laws Need Re-evaluation

by Dr. Karen Ruskin on August 27, 2015

Each time a murder happens, we in the mental health industry are reminded that something needs to change. The most recent horrific murder is of TV reporter Alison Parker and camera man Adam Ward. The news media and the public talk about why tragedy happens, because we are looking for a reason as it is human nature to want to make sense of senseless tragedy. We as a culture wish to know what we can do to prevent such tragedy. With that said I wish to address 2 key points in today’s blog.

Mental Illness – The Common Thread

Mental illness is the common thread with all these people who murder. Some blame a lack of spirituality. Some blame guns.

To blame a lack of spirituality is over simplifying the problem. There are mentally ill people who are extremely spiritual, heck, there are those who have so much religion that they are ready to kill and do kill based upon their spiritual life.

There are mentally ill who are very spiritual, and there are mentally ill who are not. I have met through the years clientele who have suicidal and/or homicidal ideations and I cannot state there’s a direct causation of the lack of spirituality to indicate one shall murder. Nor can I state that being spiritual means you shall not commit murder. For example, consider the case of Leiby Kletzky, the orthodox boy who was killed by the orthodox Jew in a close knit community in NYC.

HIPAA Re-evaluation

To blame guns in and of itself is oversimplifying things. And, we are not going to be able to take everyone’s guns away, and actually I am not advocating that. I am advocating a better more complete background check. One option is: a) INCLUDE a mental health evaluation IF you want to get a gun. Another option is: b) Change HIPAA laws requiring and allowing doctors to report to the national data base if a person is not stable so it shows up in a background check when trying to get a gun. In essence, if a person is not coming for an evaluation for a gun, rather going for their regular check-up, it should simply be required for a doctor to report his professional opinion as to whether this person is stable or not and as such would recommend a person owning or not owning a gun. This is about HIPAA laws and mental health and that’s where I believe is one piece we should be considering. For when you meet someone that is “off”, unstable, and having a hard time coping in this world, do you think a doctor notices this? I do. The problem is the way our current system works often hands are tied due to how the laws currently work.

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