Addressing the stigma around mental health, gun ownership

An armed Genevieve Jones holding a sign that says “making purpose from trauma helps make peace from trauma.” (Photo: Jones via @beyond.the.unknown)

Mental illness is an often referenced but rarely discussed topic within the greater debate about gun ownership. More often than not, it’s met with silence or negative commentary. But social media personality and shooting instructor Genevieve Jones addresses the subject directly, revealing that she suffers from both anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

In a recent Instagram post, she argued that gun owners with such conditions shouldn’t be treated as “armed and dangerous” nor should they be shunned for talking about their conditions. “Mental health never really gets talked about in this industry or even in this country except when a mass shooting happens. I think that is a little sad,” she said.

“I have been told dozens of times, even by fellow 2A supporters, that I shouldn’t talk about my problems because it will get me ‘locked up.’ ‘People will think you’re going to kill yourself.’ ‘Nobody wants a firearms instructor with PTSD,’” she added. “The last one is what really pushed me to begin this conversation. No one who is trying to move past their pain should be bullied into silence.”

Interestingly, the timing of her most recent announcement was days ahead of Mental Illness Awareness Week, which, as the National Alliance on Mental Illness explains, aims to help the public understand and normalize mental illness. This year’s theme? “Cure Stigma”. reached out to Jones to learn more about her effort, the progress she’s made and the reactions to revealing that part of her life.

Scott Gara: How has the reaction been to the initial post that you did on Oct. 2?

Genevieve Jones: The funny thing with that is that it’s been nothing but positive on my Instagram. I mean I don’t have a ton of followers but everybody that I do has been nothing but completely supportive. Where I’ve been having an issue is actually in gun stores. I work at a firearms store and as an instructor full time. I really believe that in gun stores you do see the worst in people. Not necessarily employees but my friends that would come in there to shoot and stuff. There’s a negative attitude like, “Why would you to talk about that? They’re going to come and take your guns away from you.” I heard that the other day.

The reactions has been mixed but as far as the social media side of the gun industry, they’ve been nothing but supportive and I think they’re sort of two different animals, the commercial side of everything and the media side of everything. It definitely is not easy to have that fear put in you that you’re going to get your rights stripped away from you just because you went through stuff and because you want to talk about it. It almost made me feel like I had to make this decision on whether I was going to pretend to be somebody that I’m not, to stay in this industry or if I was going to be myself and be in this industry and deal with whatever it is that may happen. I mean, that kind of sucks. The support that I’ve gotten has been really incredible, from everybody who’s commented or sent me private messages online so I’m thankful for that at least.

Gara: How do you respond to people who negative attitude toward you when you want to talk about this?

Jones: Right. Well so, a lot of time how I respond to people like that is just sort of very, like passive aggressive answers. Instead of being like, “Show me the proof to this,” because I’m really not into debating, I’m just like, “All right, well, I’ll figure it out if that happens.” I think that something that is very detrimental that I used to do a lot that caused my anxiety to get worse was asking all these what-if-questions. Having all the people ask these what-if-questions I just don’t want to really engage in it. I’m like, “All right, well if that happens I’ll figure it out.” I’ll do whatever it is I have to do to still own firearms, to still do what I have to do because it’s my right and I’m passionate about that also so, I’ll figure it out.

Gara: How has shooting helped you deal with your mental illness – your anxiety and PTSD?

Jones: I’ve been shooting for a very long time and it was always something that really just made me very happy. When I started to get panic attacks a lot I was actually afraid to start shooting again because, when you have a panic attack it’s just everything blacks out, you can’t hear anything. It’s just like it’s sheer dread happening everywhere and it’s awful and I was so afraid that when I picked up a gun, if I were to have a random panic attack it would make me unsafe. My dad was actually the one who pushed me to go back out and try something and it reminded me of how happy I was. It also taught me how to listen to my body more because whenever I would start to feel that sort of loss of control, then I would stop shooting because having a firearm did add responsibility into my brain. You know like, “Oh hey, I am doing something that’s pretty dangerous so I better be aware of what’s happening to me.”

[Shooting] actually really helped me control those attacks and stuff and it helped me in the long run, being able to shoot and teach other people how to shoot. I mean, it gives my life meaning. I saw a really awesome quote and it was, “Making purpose from trauma helps make peace from trauma.” I feel like me getting into this industry, doing all these things, teaching other people, helping other people who have been abused or attacked. It brings peace to me because it gives me a purpose. Yeah, so I don’t have to be upset about these things I can do something with them. That’s empowering.


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