We know most details from the tragedy in Tucson and we’re still trying to get a grip on the terrible eruption of that violence. But here’s the bad news we aren’t hearing…
We’re failing miserably at identifying and treating mental health problems in this country, especially serious ones. That’s been at the epicenter of numerous violent outbursts, and still things don’t change. In fact, they seem worse.
The shooting was last Saturday. On radio Monday, a woman called in and shared her desperate plea for ideas, resources, any help she could get for her own son who exhibits many disturbing similarities to the Tucson shooter. She was despondent that since he’s over 18, parents have no rights to health records, treatment options, medications, or any say over any form of help they want to give their son.
On radio again Wednesday, another woman called in from a different state and though a different voice, the words were virtually the same. Her son needs help, and she was desperately searching for any possible action she could take to find it. In both cases, these young men are angry, hostile, rebellious, and possibly dangerous, their own mothers admit. They use or have used drugs, acted aggressively and have turned against their own families. It’s a sickening worry.
Both mothers have been reading and watching news stories out of Arizona hoping that someone might point to that part of the story and provide expert analysis on mental illness and advice or resources for people who see or have the warning signals. But they had seen none, and they hoped we could suggest something. Meanwhile, they said the best thing they knew to do was pray unceasingly…
Good, that can’t be emphasized enough. Fr. Donald Calloway’s book No Turning Back is a stunning witness to the power of storming heaven.
But as for mental health resources, laws and options…..we have a big problem and need urgent changes to whatever we’re doing now, because it’s not working very well.
I had already saved one lone news commentary on this over last weekend for followup, and another one mid-week touched on it, too.
Dr. Keith Ablow, a respected expert in the field, wrote this jolting piece about the tragedy behind the tragedy.
The story of alleged gunman Jared Loughner’s murderous rampage, which took the lives of six innocent victims and critically wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, will ultimately prove to be a story about how severe mental illness—including that linked to violence—routinely goes untreated.
By all accounts, Loughner was psychiatrically ill long before he shot anyone…
Dr. Ablow gives a stark and specific account of what should have happened in the case of a young man who was demonstrably and seriously disturbed.
No, I would bet almost none of that happened, despite repeated and consistent evidence that would suggest Loughner may have been psychotic and having violent thoughts connected to his mental disorder. If that sounds a lot like the story of Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute shooter who killed 32 people, that’s because it is.
Already by the day after the shooting, Ablow was predicting that such murderous rage would not prove to be the result of polarized politics or the availability of firearms.
His violence will be understood as a result of a severe, untreated or undertreated mental illness — the kind that afflicts millions of young people in this country.
And if all this isn’t bad enough at this point, it gets worse…
As a forensic psychiatrist who also has run community mental health centers, hospitals and clinics, I can tell you for sure, without any question, that the mental health care delivery system in this country is shoddy and shattered and without any hope at present of dealing effectively with sick individuals like Jared Loughner. There are slim resources and no strategy, whatsoever.
That’s the very, very worrisome story behind this tragedy.
It’s one NRO editors noted also.
Indeed, if the ghastly events in Arizona are to prompt a “national conversation” about anything, let it be a conversation about the mentally ill, and about how we treat those who reject the treatment they desperately need.
For everyone’s sake, please God, let that begin not a moment later than now.