Cultural Competence Classes
In 2019, Walk the Talk America formally partnered with Zephyr Wellness to provide cultural competence classes for mental health clinicians who wish to improve their understanding of firearms culture. The introductory class, At the Intersection of Guns and Mental Health, delivers entry-level information on the nuances and intricacies of what constitutes “gun culture” as we know it.
What You’ll Learn
- Statistics on firearm suicides
- Myths and stigmas surrounding gun ownership
- Firearms culture in America
- Function, handling, use, and safe storage of firearms
- Live-fire experience on the range
- Plus, earn 3 CEU credits toward your profession
Attendees receive board-approved continuing education credits while learning about WTTA, its mission and history, and statistics about firearm suicides, as well as the myths and stigma surrounding gun ownership as it relates to the overall hesitation gun owners express about seeking mental health treatment. They also learn about three basic components of the firearms culture in America: beliefs, behaviors, and activities. After that, they receive elementary knowledge on the function, handling, use, and storage of firearms through both classroom instruction and a live-fire experience on the range. The final activity is a debrief conducted by WTTA’s clinician training and the attendees discuss how to apply the knowledge they just received in their clinical setting.
Our long-term goal of these classes is to create a multi-stage certificate program wherein clinicians can advertise themselves as Gun Culture Certified. Roughly 42% of Americans on average either own a firearm or live with someone who does,1 meaning that almost half of the clientele who will ever enter counseling have a gun at home. With firearm suicides on the rise,2 mental health practitioners should become fluent at having conversations with gun owners during their mental health struggles and those involving children of parents who own guns.
Walk the Talk America chiefly desires to prevent suicides by firearm. However, we also aim to increase understanding and appreciation, not just among gun owners about mental health care, but also among counselors about what gun ownership really means. By bringing the two cultures together through formalized education, training, and outreach, we plan to bring more healing to all who need it, free from judgment or fear.
1. Ruth Igielnik and Anna Brown, Key takeaways on Americans’ views of guns and gun ownership (Pew Research Center, 2017), https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/22/key-takeaways-on-americans-views-of-guns-and-gun-ownership.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Increase in Suicide Mortality in the United States, 1999–2018,” https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db362.htm.
What makes our class unique?
What makes our training program so special is we are bringing two worlds that have historically been kept apart from each other by bad information. Our class gives mental health professionals the opportunity to come into a relaxed environment to gain a better understanding of “gun culture.” This is important given how many citizens own or work with firearms. On the flip side, we at WTTA get the opportunity to understand the perspective of the mental health clinician. This gives us all a chance to understand the factual laws and what a mental health professional can and can not do.
Clinicians get a better understanding of the fears that gun owners have which helps them shape their approach and language when discussing firearms ownership. Many of the students in the class were unaware that firearm owners have fear in confiding to a therapist about their gun ownership. The common narrative was that clinicians could have your firearms confiscated if you confided that you might be struggling with your mental health. In most states, this is simply not true. Many people avoid seeking help because of this belief, which in some cases, could lead to a mental health crisis that could be deadly. When gun owners feel comfortable that their therapist is Second Amendment/Gun Culture friendly, they may be more apt to get help.