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Jan 29, 2013 11:26 AM by Melissa Anderson - MTN News

MT man discusses role of mental illness in gun control debate

EAST HELENA - Recent shootings across America have added fuel to the debate over gun control.

Ryan Eisele of East Helena says he believes the problem is not only with guns, but with misunderstanding mental illness.

At age 11, Eisele took a tragic fall in Yellowstone National Park that nearly claimed his life.

"We decided to go to the park and have a picnic and I fell 50 feet while rock climbing which left me with a metal plate in the left side of my head and a shunt in the right," he explained.

"I have sustained significant injuries such as epilepsy. I have been diagnosed with like borderline personality disorder. and depression disorder," Eisele continued.

That tragedy combined with personal family trauma led Ryan to be institutionalized several times in the state mental hospital.

Eisele now seeks refuge at the Mental Health Center in Helena, where he says he gets the counseling he needs.

But the recent shootings by suspects reported to have mental illness compelled Eisele to tell his story about the stigma of being misunderstood.

"Anybody that's been objected to a mental institution is not allowed to possess a firearm for the rest of their life. I think that is unfair for the people who like to hunt," he said.

He believes recently proposed changes in gun control stereotype those with mental illness.

"It just puts us down. I don't agree how the government is changing so many things. I think they could put more money into mental health but not be as restrictive on the guns."

Ryan sees himself becoming a role model for his peers, by becoming a mental health counselor.

"I just believe in peace and no violence and I would like to bring people aware of that," Eisele said.

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