Burke Center counselors weigh in on mental illnesses and guns

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Conversation among policy makers and health providers continue as the government looks for ways to curb gun violence. Friday, a provider and peer counselor shared what they hope will be on the discussion table.

Former Marine Scott Massey is a peer counselor for the Burke Center.

"I have PTSD and then I have a secondary bipolar disorder," Massey said.

And well enough to help others with mental disorders who find themselves answering the question.

Is there any reason why you shouldn't be able to be able to own a gun?

"There's myself and thousands like me that aren't violent and don't have a history of violence," he said.

Massey owns guns for pleasure and protection. Discussion on new gun regulations for those with mental disorders has him paranoid.

"Thinking about federal watch lists and is my name going to pop up on the grid," Massey said.

This leads to a major concern by mental health providers.

"Is that the people aren't going to come in for help and who need help," said Dr. James Smith, the director of mental health operations at the Burke Center. "And not everybody that has a mental illness is violent. Matter of fact, not everyone who has a diagnosis of schizophrenia is violent."

Smith and Massey advocate better funding and more workers to identify and help individuals prone to violent behavior.

"The best way to determine anyone's future behavior is to look at their past behavior, so if we can identify individuals that have a tendency toward violence, those are the individuals we need to focus on," Smith said.

Massey is non-violent and has his illness in control, but recognizes setbacks can occur. A strong support system and his own mindset makes him confident.

"In a heartbeat, if I thought things were getting sideways I would not hesitate to give up my home, my guns I use to protect myself with, whatever the case may be, wouldn't hesitate," Massey said.

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