On the 2nd Amendment, Health Care and Mass Murder

Data from NIMH.

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:

Data from NIMH.
Data from California Legislative Analyst’s Office.

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.