Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Recent Shootings At Sandy Hook, And The Debate We Should Be Having

In a recent thread I participated in after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School (here’s how you can help), the dialog naturally went to the issue of gun control. This is not a gun control issue. This is a mental health issue.

Just to be clear, I don’t like guns. That said, I think the debate time would be better spent not on gun control, but on how we as a society can get our mental health back. In what dark world does this act make sense, and how can we bring the light back into it?

Historically this nation does not have a great track record for treating mental illness. There was a time when some of the mentally retarded were often just “sent away” to homes where other mentally retarded children and adults could live together. Basically sequestered away from society because society couldn’t deal with anything different than the norm. This is known as Social Exclusion.

The same fate was doled out to the schizophrenics, kids with autism and a wide array of other mental illnesses. Put them away and medicate so society doesn’t have to deal with them.

But as circumstances change so goes the way we do business. In the late 70’s the state of California was running low on cash and part of the fix was to release the “residents” of mental hospitals, which were [mostly] state run. So now you have an entirely new segment of society that has been medicated for years just released into the general population. If they weren’t taken back into the family homes they were homeless and dined in dumpsters and were unemployable. But it saved the state a lot of money.

Thankfully we no longer look at mental retardation like we did before. We’ve learned that the inner beauty is untouched by the condition. But for the most part we are still failing to recognize and treat mental disorders properly.

The San Tan Valley Substance Abuse Coalition is a local group that “provides recovery, prevention and education resources to those affected by substance abuse and/or mental disorders”. If your family is affected, this is a good place to start looking for help.

If you’d like to see what it’s like to live and love someone with a mental disorder, please read Thinking the Unthinkable. The challenges this Mother deals with on a daily basis are astounding. Treatment is not covered. Here’s a quote. When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.”

So, basically we are back to where we were in the 60’s. Fail.

The shooter at Sandy Hook fatally shot his Mother four times in the head while she was sleeping. She was also the care giver for her son from what I understand. Not too dissimilar to the Mother that wrote Thinking the Unthinkable. I urge you to read it then ask yourself if our society is forward thinking enough to keep another national tragedy like Sandy Hook from happening again.