A Shooting Times reader writes
Some time ago, I suffered a bout of depression. I had recently lost my father and an old injury had flared up, meaning that I was having to take strong painkillers. There were other things as well — aren’t there always? — but equally there were many good things in my life too. But that is the way with depression; counting your blessings makes little difference.
A focus for escape
I didn’t visit my GP; though I know they are immensely helpful for some, the thought of taking antidepressants didn’t appeal. What helped me through, I’m convinced, is my enjoyment of my sport. Whether it was drey-poking in the local woods, airgunning on the farm or a bit of rough shooting with friends, it gave me a focus as well as an escape from my woes.
Should I have informed my GP?
It was only afterwards, when I’d come out the other side as it were, that I thought about it from a legal point of view. If I’d visited my GP, would he have been duty-bound to contact the local firearms enquiry officer and tell them? And if the police had revoked my licence, how would that have impacted on my already fragile mental health?
I do understand that safety to the wider public is paramount, but I honestly believe that the loss of my beloved sport would have done me considerable harm.
Legal advice by Bill Harriman of BASC
I am delighted to hear that you have come out of your depression. Mental illness is no different from heart disease, rheumatism and so on.
The first step in curing any illness is to go to your doctor and seek treatment. There is no statutory duty on a doctor to report any mental illness and, indeed, patient confidentiality is very important. It can, however, be breached if a doctor feels there is a realistic prospect of a patient harming himself or others with his guns.
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It is vital that anyone suffering from mental health engages early with a doctor to enable him to make a balanced assessment of the patient’s condition. Guidance on police and GP information sharing is at Annex A to Appendix 11 in the Guide on Firearms Licensing Law. The Home Office has issued sensible guidance about this issue.
Previous mental health issues are not an automatic bar. 12.29 of the Guide makes this clear: “The fact that a person has received treatment in the past for certain illnesses or conditions, such as depression or stress, does not make them automatically unsuitable to possess a firearm. It is one of the factors to be considered with all other evidence relating to the applicant’s character and history. In such cases, account should be taken of the latest medical opinion, and particular attention should be paid to whether this suggests if the condition is liable to recur.”