Likens: Poor mental health to blame in mass shootings
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 17:10
When Radcliffe Haughton opened fire in a Wisconsin spa, killing three and injuring seven, it was all too familiar a story for anyone with a television set or an Internet connection. However, if you’re tired of hearing bad news, you can make a game out of it.
Pull up any article about these murders, take a wild guess at what sort of uneducated bickering this event is going to stir up, then scroll down to the comments section.
As predictable as Brady Bunch reruns, it’s gun control. Every. Single. Time.
However, to blame the problem on firearms is a severe case of denial. The issue is not in the guns--it’s in us. Mostly, it’s the fact that America’s mental healthcare system is a brutal, unfunny joke.
Since the 1950s, America has had quite the problem with keeping our mental institutions open, a gradual process called deinstitutionalization. One by one, funding issues and policy changes have practically turned America into a boneyard for mental health facilities.
When said institutions close, overcrowding makes merging patients a huge problem. The solution?
They’re wished the best of luck and booted into the streets. This trend caused an explosion of homelessness in the 1980s, and the system is shrinking to this day, with less and less room and less and less efficiency.
Unfortunately, the way our society copes with this influx is to send them to prison--a paradox, considering that they are honestly better off there.
Somehow, the treatment the mentally disabled receive in prison is overwhelmingly superior to the treatment they would get in the average mental institution. Those of you who don’t have the urge to fact check that statement clearly don’t understand how ridiculous that is.
Reflect on these shootings a moment. Colorado. Virginia Tech. Columbine. This very incident in Wisconsin. In all of those cases, the assailants had a history of violence, mental instability or severe depression. In retrospect, it’s clear as day that they were practically screaming for help.
One could say they had simply flown under the radar but it’s hard to fly under a radar that doesn’t even work. If the United States had a mental healthcare system that wasn’t busy twiddling its thumbs when it wasn’t earning funding at the street corners, all of these individuals could have been identified and directed towards help, preventing these tragedies altogether.
Unfortunately, the public hasn’t been educated to understand how vital it is they report such concerns. Medication, counseling, even institutionalization--anything is better than nothing, than being allowed to sit and fester until SWAT has to get involved.
And no, that’s not just speculation. Combined, the six states commonly revered as having the most professional mental healthcare systems (Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma) have had only seven mass shootings in the past 20 years. California, a flagship for American gun laws, but notorious for its inferior mental healthcare, has had nine major shootings alone, gang shootings disregarded.
And don’t chalk that up to population just yet--together, those states outnumber California by more than three million people.
So long as the unhealthy are forced to walk among us without the proper treatment or precautions, the chances that they’ll don a Papa Smurf costume and firebomb a JC Penny’s isn’t going to be helped much by disposing of firearms.
The issue of gun control is complex one. Claiming that getting firearms out of the hands of civilians would quell these murders not only fails to realize the source of the problem, but serving an injustice to the debate of gun control as a whole.