Once again we’ve suffered a tragedy in a school in which a very disturbed guy decided to take a lot of people with him to wherever one goes after this life. It’s upsetting. It also makes me angry.
Naturally, the topic of gun control is on everyone’s mind, and everyone is resigned to the fact that nothing will be done about it, despite popular opinion. For me it’s a no-brainer. No civilian needs an arsenal or an assault weapon. Bear arms all you want. Hunt all you want. But you don’t have to prepare for overkill. You’ve been watching Rambo too much. It’s absurd.
But I had a very fascinating talk recently with someone who has been in the mental health field here in Seattle for 40 years. She brought up some very interesting points. (I wasn’t taking any notes, so any errors are mine alone.)
She said that the number of people in Seattle who have been to the emergency room more than 50 times for mental health issues number in the thousands. Multiply that by every large city in the country and the figure becomes quite daunting.
And yet you cannot involuntarily admit these people for mental health treatment. Yes, there is the Baker Act which allows for a 72 hour hold, but after that, they are released. And it has been thus since Reagan discarded the Mental Health Systems act, which put many people back out on the streets.
Now imagine that you are a family member of someone who is obviously disturbed. You have been begging for help for them for years, but there’s no such help available. You’ve told the police that you are afraid he’ll do something violent. They tell you they can’t do anything until the crime is already committed. Chances are this relative is either homeless or living in your basement, and then you yourself are a prisoner in your own home. You hide your knives. You live in fear mixed with guilt and shame, and no one, NO ONE will help you.
But when this crazy relative of yours goes into some school or movie theater and opens fire, in the aftermath people blame you. They say, “His parents should have done something! How could his family be so blind?”
They are not blind, people. They are just not given the support that they so desperately need. Until we have clearly defined description of what this type of mental illness looks like, and the infrastructure to deal with it, and the legal ability to involuntarily admit such people (which apparently they have in England and their world hasn’t come to an end), this problem isn’t going to go away.
We are more than willing to throw money at the prison system, so these people can be housed after the damage has been done. And thanks to terrorists, we have Homeland Security. So expansive and expensive policy changes can be made. How much more death do we have to experience in the form of mass shootings before the mental health system is revamped?