Sunday, April 22, 2007

Some thoughts

In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre there seems to be a lot of debate on gun control, but not enough about the state of mental health care. I'm rather neutral on the gun issue, believing in the right to own guns but supporting the assault weapons ban. I believe that if you own a gun, you should be responsible for what happens with that gun. The old wisecrack that "guns don't kill people, bullets kill people" always made sense to me.
But I'm not neutral on mental health treatment. As I related in an earlier post, I'm a former mental health counselor. One of the reasons that I left the field was my frustration with the chronic underfunding of the mental health system. The lack of resources available to provide proper treatment drove me crazy. To watch people suffering and dying, knowing that it could be prevented or alleviated if more resources were available. With budgets cut repeatedly, case loads grow. Counseling sessions are cut. Medications become the only treatment provided by the system, the only tool left.
Mental health treatment isn't a sexy political issue. As a society, we tend to avoid and shun people with mental illness. It's the victims and their families who suffer.
Would better treatment have prevented this massacre? It's impossible to know, but the lack of treatment was obvious in this case.
added: The weakness in our mental health system is only one symptom of the weakness of our health care system in general, which is itself just a symptom of our fornicated society. With the greedheads in charge, peoples lives don't matter.

9 comments:

whig said...

I think we focus entirely too much upon whether people conform to a social expectation and not enough on whether people are truly dangerous to themselves and others. Those who are mentally deficient in some way but peaceful can be helped. Those who pose a threat to the very people who want to help them are much harder to deal with.

What do you think about the best approaches for dealing with the violent people in our society? We don't consider most violent people to be mentally ill. Perhaps we should.

pygalgia said...

True. People with mental illness are no more or less violent than the general public. But in this case, the young man was clearly psychotic. Violent people in the general population tend to run afoul of the law, and end up in the criminal justice system.

whig said...

So what should we have done with him?

pygalgia said...

In his current situation, burial. But a more intensive treatment of his illness might have dealt with his anger and paranoia. Would it have prevented him from killing? Maybe. The lack of treatment didn't.

gandhixmas said...

Yes, this individual was driven by demons, but I also think identifying the illness "within his head" and not as a feature of outside society is a mistake. I mean, look at how Cho dressed himself in posing for his pictures he sent to NBC; he could have been mistaken as a Blackwater mercenary in Iraq (backwards ball cap, gloves, tan vest, etc etc.) Sure Cho was delusional and psychotic, but the cultural messages he embraced run through our society, not just in his nightmarish thoughts. Where did Cho ever come up with the idea that it is OK to kill people to get what you want? DO we question the "real world" of militarism here? How about questioning how we train our youth to treat each other, especially those that are different, like shit? Cho did not grow up in a vacuum.

No real point here except that the USA will continue to have some real horrible events for a few reasons. One, the gun debate wont be solved so Americans will still proudly possess weapons and crazy people and criminals will efficiently kill people at will.In short good law abiding citizens will own 9mm semi-autos with 30 rd clips along with psychotics and violent criminals. The USA will probably devolve into a hyper armed and hyper fearful society. Remember, Americans murder about 16,000 of each other, every year, and guns are the favored tool to achieve this end.

pygalgia said...

Yes, all this is true. But treating America's collective psychosis is beyond my level of training.
Really wish you'd start posting, because you make a lot of good points.

whig said...

Gandhixmas is quite right. We cannot cure our collective psychosis without ending war. We can treat it, with communication, compassion, and cannabis. Those who embrace this will not embrace war, those who embrace this will create the new society. The old one is self-destructing. We are trying to help, we are trying to reduce the violence, end the war.

whig said...

Proof of cognitive impairment is people who don't see anything wrong with the war. I'm telling you we need to regulate the militia real soon.

whig said...

They will quickly want us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, I would think, if they are required to complete a course of basic training. And they would not want us engaged in other foreign wars, understanding that their right to keep and bear arms is contingent upon the necessity of a well regulated militia.