Why is no one talking about mental health care?

In the wake of yet another mass killing, I’ve seen countless calls for  gun control but no one is mentioning the other item that goes hand in hand with these tragedies: mental illness.

To be clear, I’m not opposed to better gun control laws, especially with respect to handguns. However, as Prohibition and the war on drugs has proven, you can’t eliminate something for which there is a demand. So while there are things that can be done, it’s not a panacea.

On the other hand, we’re quite good at getting kids vaccinated, having their eyes checked, and requiring certain levels of PE, all of which contribute to physical health. Why can’t we put a little more effort into mental health resources? Depression, rage, and schizophrenia are common elements in those who lash out like this. If these symptoms show up in someone between 7-18, we could provide treatment. Similarly, the medical profession could promote  mental health checkups, the way they encourage the annual physical exam.

Obviously, there’s no silver bullet, and there are all sorts of potential tangles. You don’t want someone banned from every buying a rifle because they were once depressed over the loss of a loved one. You don’t want a 12-year old pumped full of psych meds because they’re going through a rough patch. Not every schizophrenic is a mass murderer.

This is a multifaceted problem, and deserves a multifaceted approach.  Possibilities …

Health care: Make sure insurance companies provide mental health coverage. Provide screening and support for school- and college- aged kids.

Gun laws: Distinguish between guns that serve a legitimate purpose (hunting*) and those designed to kill humans (semi-automatic handguns). Go after the sellers or providers of the guns rather than the owners.**

Society: Recognize the constant exposure to violence desensitizes us and provide visible rewards and disincentives for healthier models of behavior.*** De-stigmatize mental health care.

—-
* I grew up in Montana and saw rifles on gun racks almost daily; everyone accepted they were for hunting. I have no problem with people putting food on their tables. However, the guy walking down a suburban street with a 100-round magazine is not looking for deer.
** Early reports (which my prove incorrect) suggest that the today’s shooter didn’t own the guns but got them from his uncle. He should be held to some account, as should gun dealers who don’t follow the law.
*** Maybe a tax on violent movies and video games? While there is no evidence that exposure to these media cause violence, there are many studies that clearly show a drop in empathy and increased aggression.

Update: The guns apparently belonged to the mother, and here’s a first person account of someone dealing with violent mental illness in her son.

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4 comments

  1. “De-stigmatize mental health care.” Right on. My thoughts on the issue as it relates to homelessness are here: http://potemkinvillageidiot.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/sitting-on-a-park-bench/

  2. Paul Strohm · · Reply

    Spent some time in a cardiologist office this last week and ER. The places are crowded! We need to alter our view of health care(include mental health care). Its run like a business. It shouldnt be a business at all and if it is to be then it should be a Walmart first then grow into Macy’s and Apple.

  3. Jennyh · · Reply

    The “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” piece is both moving and terrifying. I am so grateful for my relatively ‘normal’ family, and my heart goes out to her.

  4. Paul Strohm · · Reply

    Can a human being climatize to the horror of daily life? yes! We have always been capable of doing the worst things and living with the consequences of doing those things. There is truly little we can do but deal with horrors. I suppose that is why humans quickly turned to God. He/she would make sense of it all if not now then sometime in the future. The bible has Jesus telling us “the poor will always be with you but I won’t.” That should have been a cue. Mental illness, gun violence, child abuse and all that other stuff which hopefully only happens to someone I dont know, are the staples of our existence. On the shelf waiting for a shopper to pick one out to take home. I know of nothing which will change the current situation. There are too many of us with different ways of seeing. I suppose we could pray together for a change of heart but that hasnt worked yet. So we muddle on as best we can making little gestures in a very dark world. The point? Never surrender, never give up.

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