On the 2nd Amendment, Health Care and Mass Murder

I had hoped that the last post I wrote on a mass murder of children would be the last post I wrote on a mass murder of children, but I guess that’s not the case since a sick monster brutally shot innocent children and their teachers.

Like a lot of people across the country, or even the world, I am sad. I am sad that there are dead children and children who will be traumatized for the rest of their lives because they had to witness their friends and teachers being murdered at school. I am horrified that this kind of thing keeps happening.

I am disgusted by the 24/7 coverage as if the media would feel guilty for covering anything else, even though they have no new information to report. I am outraged that, in a race to be the first, the media reported a lot of false information, including initially naming the innocent brother as the shooter. I am resentful that the media shouts the name of the person who did this is on the television, radio and in all the papers so that he will live in infamy instead of going down like the anonymous nutcase he was.

I am angry that, every time something like this happens, the second amendment to the United States constitution comes under attack, as if guns are in some way responsible for all of this. I’m offended that the US government is at work on gun control legislation right now, which is merely attacking a symptom, rather than getting to the root of the problem, which is mental health. Do people really think, if guns didn’t exist, that someone who had it in their head to kill twenty children wouldn’t just use some other weapon? How many children would have to die before we outlawed kitchen knives or baseball bats?

According to the CDC, 1 in 2 Americans has a diagnosable mental disorder each year, including 44 million adults and 13.7 million children, whereas far less than half of the American population owns guns (numbers vary from roughly 20-30% depending on the source). Which is the bigger problem?

While it’s true that most mass murderers prefer guns as their weapon of choice, I do not believe that guns should be held accountable, at least, not entirely. If anyone or anything is to be held accountable, it should be the asshole who did the shooting, and if a larger scapegoat is needed, blame the shoddy mental health care system in the United States. Blame the fact that mental health issues are mostly fobbed off as imaginary. Blame the fact that it is nearly impossible to get psychiatric treatment in this country without jumping through countless hoops. Believe me, I’ve been through it.

The fact is, when you are mentally defective in America, you have to seek help yourself. It doesn’t come to you unless you do something drastic like try to kill yourself or someone else. If you don’t have private health insurance, you have to go through a lengthy, agonizing process of self-abasement and public embarrassment. You have to parade your issues around a multitude of public buildings and answer a million questionnaires about how defective you are and in what way. Unless people are truly committed to getting help, like I was, most just give up. It took seven months from the first phone call until my first prescription was filled and I still had to pay $1,000 even though I did not have a job at the time. It wasn’t fast, easy or even remotely free.

In California, where I live, state mental health expenditures made up only 7% of all health and social services spending in 2009-10:

The Federal government numbers are just as bleak. When you suffer from mental illness, the last thing you want to do is get treatment. Just the act of getting out of bed to go to the bathroom is a monumental task. So, expecting mentally ill people to jump through all those hoops and suffer for seven months is kind of ridiculous. Seven months is an awfully long time to suffer with mental illness and still want to follow through. Seven minutes of severe depression is about all most regular people could handle.

I’m not going to jump to the conclusion that this latest mass murdering asshole was necessarily mentally ill (although I pretty much just did), but I don’t see how he could really be anything else. Mentally healthy people just don’t go around killing children. And I’m not saying that this could have been avoided if it was easier to get mental health treatment in this country, because who knows if even that would have made a difference, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. Getting people treatment when they need it would go a long way towards having a happier society and happy people don’t kill children.

There are 13 comments

  1. Pepper Culpepper

    I wanted to write something along these lines today on my blog, but I was too depressed to get out of bed today. I’m living with Bipolar Disorder and am just having a really crappy mood swing. So I want to thank you for saying what I couldn’t.

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    1. goldfish

      I almost didn’t write anything and I probably wouldn’t have had I not thought that health care really is the crux of the issue and it’s being glossed over in favor of gun control.

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  2. Melanie

    Gun control isn’t the answer. Someone determined to kill is going to kill and just because they can’t get a gun doesn’t mean they will suddenly stop wanting to kill. Like you said, another weapon will just take its place. Plus, gun control only controls law-abiding citizens, not criminals or those who believe general laws don’t apply to them. Felons aren’t legally allowed to own or possess guns, but how many do? Too many to count.

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  3. braith an' lithe

    It was amazing reading this (and your linked posts), just after a discussion I’d had with my husband. I showed him this this article I’d just read- which if you haven’t already seen I think you might be interested in http://thebluereview.org/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother/
    I had had no idea that mental health care was so different in the US, and so poor. My husband is a doc and said he did a stint in New Mexico many years ago, and he remembered being shocked about it then.
    Obviously, it’s really hard to get hold of a gun in Scotland. We’ve had one similar mass murder of children – Dunblane, in 1996. I can still recall vividly exactly the moment I heard about it, it was such a huge shock and the impact lasts till this day (e.g. it totally changed primary school security). It’s tricky to kill so many so quickly with just a knife or whatever…but I hadn’t fully realised till this week the role of the health care system. I guess I just assumed the US would be doing that as well as we were. I’m sure it’s not perfect here. But it’s free, and we don’t wait till complete crisis/a crime is committed.
    I just went to double check on the system and provision here & discovered that my husband wrote a brief article on doc2doc about it! He kept that quiet! If you’re interested it’s http://doc2doc.bmj.com/blogs/doctorsblog/_ordinary-mother-speaks

    I am so glad that people like you and Liza Long are speaking out and raising awareness of this issue. Thank you.

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    1. goldfish

      Wow. That article is heartbreaking. Mental illness still very much has a stigma attached to it. People are more inclined to think along the lines of, “Just snap out of it, would you? It’s all in your head. Why can’t you just be happy?” That’s like saying to someone with cancer, “why don’t you just will that cancer away with positive thinking?”

      I actually mentioned the Dublane shooting in the previous post I wrote about mass murder. I don’t know why these things keep happening in the States, but the positively shockingly poor mental health care system is a major contributing factor, I have no doubt.

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  4. braith an' lithe

    Ah thanks, I read the 2 posts at the other link and missed that one.

    I think there’s still a lot of stigma here, but we do definitely also think people should seek/receive treatment as soon as they need it.

    Dunblane had an extra level of shock due to being such a nice, peaceful place. But of course we’re not all rural idyll. Given Glasgow’s knife crime stats, I’m very glad guns are so hard to come by here. But you’re right, it shouldn’t all turn into a gun debate. Hopefully this time more attention will focus on what can be done to prevent anyone getting to the point of picking up any weapon with the intent to massacre.

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  5. Caron Eastgate Dann

    So true. I thought your post was very well reasoned and logically thought-out.
    Here in Australia there have been cutbacks to mental health care too and you only have to look around the streets to see that the situation is dire. On every train I take, there’s at least one young man who looks like he will explode with anger, at least one person obviously high on drugs, and at least one who looks dreadfully sad. They all need help. And these are only the people who are visible to me. How many poor people must there be who I can’t see but who need help, or who appear to be functioning but actually are not? The situation is quite desperate. A woman rang a radio station recently to talk about how difficult it was for her son, who has a severe mental illness that results in psychotic episodes, to get help. When he is sick, there is virtually nowhere to take him; he is dosed up, then she has to take him home. Both he and she are in terrible danger.
    A couple of years ago, at the skate park near where I live, police surrounded and shot dead a 14-year-old boy with a mental illness. He did not have a gun, though he had a small knife and was, apparently, threatening them with it. I am not blaming the police, so much as a society that cannot provide an alternative to shooting a teenager dead because he is mentally ill.
    My mother used to teach mental health specialist nurses at a university in the 1990s. The government cancelled the course as part of cutbacks.
    Our societies must learn to invest in people; that the health of our population is our most important asset, and without good health, both physical and mental, people cannot function as citizens.

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