Walk the Talk America Partners with Zephyr Wellness to End Stigma Facing Mental Health Care and Responsible Gun Ownership

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Partnership plans to host competency training for mental health providers to understand the firearms culture and remove stigmatization.

(May, 2019) – Walk The Talk America (WTTA), a non-profit organization working to foster relationships between firearms companies and firearms owners with the mental health community, has partnered with a Reno, Nevada-based counseling agency, Zephyr Wellness.

Founder of WTTA, Mike Sodini, a former firearms importer and manufacturing executive, has taken tremendous strides in the gun community over this past year with a goal of bringing together the gun and mental health communities and removing many of the stigmas that exist between the two. “More than 100 million people in the United States own firearms. That is a lot of people that might not reach out for help for themselves or their children, especially if they are misinformed into thinking that reaching out will deprive them of their 2nd amendment rights,” Sodini explained.

A Pew Research Center poll conducted in September and October of 2018 found the same percentage of people – 89 percent – of both Democrats and Republicans believed that people with mental illness should not be able to purchase guns.

“That kind of mentality is preventing people from getting help,” Jake Wiskerchen, Zephyr’s co-founder and clinical director, said. “And in the process, we’re seeing continued deaths by suicide, ongoing family conflict, unchecked substance abuse, and so on. If people believe they’ll lose their right to own a firearm simply because they’re sick, then we need to change that. This partnership is a good first step.”

“The goal of this partnership is to remove the stigma that individuals suffering from mental illness should not own firearms. Many of these people have legally purchased firearms for purposes of self-defense, hunting, or target shooting. When a firearm owning individual starts to suffer from depression, substance abuse or many of the other classified definitions of mental illness, he or she should immediately seek the help of a trained and qualified counselor without fear of repercussion,” Sodini added. “It is because of the misinformation on both sides, that a person does not seek help and that potentially can lead to an unfortunate circumstance. Our partnership seeks to remove that wall and create a bridge.”

Wiskerchen highlighted the need for clinicians to understand gun culture. “We in the healthcare profession have an obligation to be culturally competent,” he said. “Starting this summer, we plan to host competency trainings for mental health providers to embrace the culture of gun ownership. Statistically, half of our clients either own a gun or live with someone who does, and we need more accurate understanding of that dynamic.”

Upcoming courses for mental health care professionals will be posted on the WTTA and Zephyr Wellness sites.

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