A Nevada Assemblyman was arrested and jailed Saturday evening for threatening a fellow legislator because he was upset over his committee assignments. Steven Brooks, a second-term legislator, allegedly threatened to shoot fellow Democrat Marilyn Kirkpatrick earlier in the day. The incident was reported to the Las Vegas Police Department, who then pulled Brooks over in a routine traffic stop, at which time he was found to have a loaded gun. Fellow caucus members stated that Brooks had behaved erratically at earlier meetings of the party’s caucus.
Steven Brooks is a legislator who was elected to the Nevada legislature in 2010. By all accounts, he’s a legislator who cares for his constituents, and is a well-mannered, even-tempered individual. His long list of accomplishments includes being the youngest chair of the local Urban League. He’s involved in his church, and works for the City of Las Vegas as a management analyst. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, and did well enough to be accepted into Howard University’s medical school. Instead of becoming a doctor, he applied his degree towards teaching math and science to area students. He’s even been a coach for a youth football team.
Outsiders might say that he’s crazy, and that he needs to be locked up to keep him away from others. In light of the recent push to increase gun safety, some might try to validate the argument that the issue is one of mental health and not the guns. While that may sound like an easy solution to a complicated issue, the fact is not even the best trained mental health professionals can predict when someone might be a threat. Second, contrary to popular belief, those who are mentally ill are no more likely to become violent than anyone else.
Another popular myth is that mental illness is black and white, meaning that anyone who has a mental illness is easy to distinguish from someone who does not. The fact is, about 25 percent of adults experience some mental health issues in any given year. Just like other medical conditions, the severity can range from mild to moderate to severe. Most are mild, with only a small fraction (6 percent) exhibiting severe symptoms. In truth, there are people everywhere who have bouts with mental illness, just the same as any other illness. Mental illness simply does not get treated with the same respect. Most insurers put a cap on the amount of mental health coverage that someone may have in a given year. Some people even mistakenly believe that mental illness does not exist.
This makes tackling the issue all the more difficult. Yes, people who have a serious mental health problem should receive proper treatment for their condition, and if they are determined to be dangerous by qualified mental health professionals, that should be known to the proper authorities. But the myths about mental illness and the stigma that accompanies them need to be addressed. Just like the outmoded use of the word “retarded,” everyone needs to stop using the word “crazy,” as well as other nicknames that are used for people who might be perceived as having a mental illness.
We need to stop shaming people, become more educated, and begin to work on a paradigm shift away from the current and outmoded ways of thinking. Perhaps if Steven Brooks’ colleagues had shown concern for his mental health and encouraged him to talk to someone instead of merely documenting it for the record, this frightening situation could have been avoided and this married father of four would be sitting at home with his family now instead of in jail.