Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story!
You know what you call humans who have sought help dealing with issues in the brain? Heroes. That’s what we call those people.
Those who have made a conscious choice to break generational trauma, improve their mental health, or admit that they can’t handle things without expert help, are role models for the world.
There is a bill that the governor is allowing to become law without his signature that relates to electric guns, aka tasers. I have no particular issue with the substance of the bill.
However there is a list of humans who cannot buy this weapon: Those who are in, or have ever sought, treatment for addiction or for a severe mental health issue are excluded from buying an electric gun unless their medical provider gives them clearance. As excerpted from House Bill 891 HD2 SD2 CD1:
No person who:
(1) Is or has been under treatment or counseling for addiction to, abuse of, or dependence upon any dangerous, harmful, or detrimental drug; intoxicating compound as defined in section 712-1240; or intoxicating liquor;
(2) Has been acquitted of a crime on the grounds of mental disease, disorder, or defect pursuant to section 704‑411;
(3) Is or has been diagnosed as having a significant behavioral, emotional, or mental disorder as defined by the most current diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association.
Let me get this straight. Those who have never been caught by law enforcement or sought treatment voluntarily can buy a taser, but because I had the awareness to know I needed help and sought treatment 20 years ago, I need to basically prove that I am mentally sane?
If you want to require every human to pass a mental health exam, I would be all for it. But the way this is currently written, is discriminatory. Incredibly discriminatory. Releasing my health records? Requiring me to prove my mental competence, simply because I have ever sought help?
In a moment in history where mental health challenges are rising by the day, and suicides continue to plague our people, and addiction is at its all-time high — this is the moment where the state wants to effectively penalize those who seek help?
As both a survivor and a counselor who works in the field of mental health, I can tell you that more than 66% of addicts and alcoholics today, were victims of sexual abuse of children. So much of the work that we do in therapy is about empowerment and helping people to learn to trust themselves again. As a result of the verbiage in this bill, and just about every other bill nationwide that relates to guns, what we are effectively saying is that people who have sought help cannot be trusted. That they need validation from another to prove they are sane.
I do not have an answer to the gun debate. I am not a paid legislator, and it is not my full-time job to come up with answers to those questions.
But I can definitely tell you that if one human decides not to seek treatment or help as a result of this bill, then we failed. We failed the teens who killed themselves. We failed the grieving parent who lost a child in an accident. We failed the rape victim who is afraid to seek help due to stigma.
The stigma exists. It is so great that we are losing people daily by their own hand. Shouldn’t it be our job to lower stigma and seek to erase it, instead of perpetuate it?
If the state is seeking a scapegoat for gun violence, let it look elsewhere. Heroes who have sought help for themselves and their loved ones will not be your scapegoat this time. We won’t be discriminated against. We will use our voices and we will fight.
Zahava Zaidoff is a certified substance abuse counselor on the Big Island.