SHOULD ALL PSYCHIATRISTS CARRY GUNS?

“Yo Dumplin. I’m home,” I called, swaggering into our ranch house. I swaggered because my sidearm, a Colt 45, weighed heavy on my right hip and made me walk funny.

“My hero,” Dumplin said, smiling, and dressed in a black bustier and long white skirt. “100,000 followers tweeted that you brought down another paranoid psychotic who would have killed dozens if you hadn’t taken brave and immediate action.”

“Aw shucks, sweetie. It was just in a days work. If the ACLU hadn’t called me a psychiatric Neanderthal and sued me and the hospitals hadn’t released my patient after 24 hours I wouldn’t be a hero. It was just dumb luck. Timing is everything.”

“You are so brave. I made your favorite vittles, spaghetti in a light, Bolognese sauce and a glass of 2007 Pinot Noir.”

Actually none of this is really funny.

The Community Mental Health system, which was started in the sixties, only succeeded in closing our state hospitals and filling our streets with untreated schizophrenics, bipolar disorders and paranoid disorders. Most are peace abiding but there are a percentage who are obviously dangerous.

What just happened at Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital in Philadelphia is horrifying. A man with a history of violence shot his social worker in the head, killing her, and wounded his psychiatrist, Dr. Lee Silverman. Dr. Silverman was able to use his own weapon and wound the assailant, who was then disarmed by colleagues.

When questioned, the police chief said that, “without a doubt, I believe the doctor saved lives.”

So; should mental health professionals start packing?

Most of the time, no. The chances of us shooting ourselves is a lot higher than hitting an assailant.

On the other hand, if one works with dangerous felons, that’s a different story. Maybe small arms training isn’t such a bad idea. Dr. Silverman made the correct and courageous decision, saving his own life and the lives of his colleagues.

I’m just waiting for the hospital, the ACLU or the assailant’s family to sue Dr. Silverman because he broke hospital protocol and carried a weapon. Sometimes I have a lot of trouble figuring out who’s crazier, the patients’ we’re trying to help or the people trying to protect these same patients from our ministrations…

Art Smukler is an award-winning psychiatrist and author of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

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