Tragedy Followed by the Blame Game
West Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.
The list is much bigger, of course. From a news blog at ABC, I count 14 school shootings since 1997. That is only the ones that made the news. Everyone from Piers Morgan to The Liberal OC’s Dan Chmielewski have chimed in on the subject (sorry, Dan, but you are wrong) of gun control. The Brady Bunch could not get their same, tired, message out once again any faster than they did. As expected, the NRA circled their wagons around the 2nd Amendment. The truth is, we have thousands of gun control laws on the books and it did not stop this tragedy (or any other involving guns) from happening. Face it, laws are designed to be reactive. When was the last time you heard a would be criminal or, in this case, nut-job say, “Maybe I shouldn’t kill that person because I might get the death penalty.” I’ve been in law enforcement for over 20 years and have yet to hear it. So, maybe our focus is wrong. You see, the perpetrators of these heinous crimes all have another thing in common. They are all deeply troubled and mentally ill.
Maybe that is where we should focus our discussions.
Mental illness has taken a back seat to nearly every other social issue these days. Yet, there has been a significant increase in the number of people who have been diagnosed with serious mental illness. More than 20 million people suffer a mood disorder such as bipolar and depressive disorder. Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability of kids and young adults. Schizophrenia, which usually manifests itself in men in their late teens and women in their early thirties, affects 1.1 percent of the adult population. And, PTSD is a growing disorder among not just our returning troops but also regular folks who have suffered serious trauma and violent incidents such as rape and assault.
Many of our homeless who, in this county, we turn a blind eye to, suffer debilitating mental illness. Lacking services to assist them, they wander the streets, are arrested, suffer indignities and scare the hell out of most “regular” people who encounter them. So, what do we do? We cut services to them, of course. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, services are often unavailable or inaccessible for those who need them most. According to them one in ten children live with a serous mental disorder. Yet, the recession (or depression if you see it as I do) has cut spending on mental health services by $1.8 billion dollars in 2011 with deeper cuts over the past year.
Communities pay a high price for cuts of this magnitude. Rather than saving states and communities money, these cuts to services simply shift financial responsibility to emergency rooms, community hospitals, law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities and homeless shelters.
Massive cuts to mental health services also potentially impact public safety. As a whole, people living with serious mental illness are no more violent than the rest of the population. In fact, it is well documented that these individuals are far more frequently the victims of violence than the perpetrators of violent acts.
However, the risks of violence among a small subset of individuals may increase when appropriate treatment and supports are not available. The use of alcohol or drugs as a form of self medication can also increase these risks.
I couldn’t agree more. California, which likes to think of itself as the social consciousness of the West, cut more than $587 million dollars in 2011 from the budget. That is the most of any state in the union. Worse, since then-governor Ronald Reagan closed the hospitals and cast the mentally ill onto the streets, our mental health services have been some of the worst in the nation. Taking bad to worse via a 16 percent drop in spending at a time when mental health services are suffering a significant increase in demand… well, you get the picture.
While you mull over whether to blame inadequate gun laws, even though there are thousands on the books, or whether to blame mental health or, as Mike Huckabee did, God, say a prayer to whomever your God is for the families who have suffered from this tragic loss. Keep your family safe. No one else will do it for you. The police have no obligation to the individual so don’t look toward them. It is up to you and your neighbors to keep each other safe. In this case, you are your brother’s keeper.
And, ask why on earth our so-called leaders are cutting spending to programs that are necessary now, more than ever.
Our friend, Tyron Jackson, is hosting another event to bring our community together in this time of tragedy. For Tyron, like many of us, it is a time of rememberance, compassion and renewal. He has invited everyone to the “My Kid Is Special! Community Prayer Vigil” on December 17, 2012 from 5:30-6:30 PM at the Tustin Community Center, 300 Centennial Way, Tustin, CA.
On Friday December 14th 2012, our hearts were shattered when the news broke that students and teachers were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut.
Join us on Monday December 17th 5:30-6:30 p.m at the Tustin Community Center as the community comes together to pray for the victims and families of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Also join us as we Encourage, Inspire, Motivate and remind our youth, our children, our students that they are SPECIAL and we LOVE them!
There won’t be any discussions of gun control or mental health. Just our community telling the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School how much we care and how much we are thinking of them in their time of need.