The Killings and Treatment for Mental Illness

Well, another shooting. No, not a shooting: A stabbing, shooting and mayhem by automobile. Ban cars and knives? Only kidding on a no-kidding subject. Carried a knife with me since I was nine. Not sure why nine, or even if it was nine, but we all carried pocket knives in those days. But we never thought of using it to stab anyone. It was for whittling, certain throwing games in the dirt, and other more useful tasks like cutting ropes and cords or sharpening your pencil at school. Yeah, they had pencil sharpeners, but we used knives or sometimes just gnawed on the ends.

Anyway, this kooky guy, son of a film director, well-to-do, one of the so-called privileged, a playboy with out any playmates, decided he hated just about everyone, but particularly blonde women, went and killed four guys, two girls and himself, wounded eight others and injured four more with his car. He claimed he had no friends but did have two roommates – he was 22 – one of whom he killed. I guess they weren’t friends either.

Police got a one-day warning when he posted suicide-murder interpreted stuff on Facebook, but they only talked to him. Didn’t search his room and find his arsenal because he was polite and calm. Parents got in on it, apparently too late, although it appears he’s been under psychiatric care a long time. If you want to know more, check it out on the Internet. His whole disturbed, sad and screaming-for-help life is there to read in a 141 page day-before-massacre-written auto-biography. And, don’t pass up reading the sicko comments by women who think the killer was “hot.”

I know this sounds flip, but mental illness is not a flippant subject. It’s real and guys like this Elliot Rodgers are real and are real dangers. He, and guys like him, are the root of the psycho-murders that seemingly plague this country. Yes, guns present problems, but so do knives and cars and anything else that is handy. At the root of the problem, however, is the person using the weapons. But, mental illness isn’t all potential killers and that presents a problem which is reflected in two pieces of legislation now going head-to-head in the House of Representatives.

One comes from Rep. Tim Murphy, a Republican representative in a Democratic district in Western Pennsylvania. He is a practicing psychologist who has headed up a committee addressing the issue for the past year. He has had bipartisan support, but some backed off when Democrats presented their own bill. He favors changes in the laws, specifically, a mental health court, to address the problems with the severely mentally ill as well as easing up medical disclosure laws relating to family members.

An opposing view comes from Rep. Ron Barber, an Arizona Democrat wounded in the Gabrielle Gifford shooting, and Gifford’s successor when she couldn’t remain in office due to her injuries. He proposes no changes in the law, but more funding to provide broader and earlier care for the mentally ill including funds to address bullying.

Rep. Murphy wants to move dollars from programs that he believes haven’t worked into funding for programs dealing with the more severely ill. He points out that in the 1970s, in Pennsylvania there were 20 mental institutions and eight prisons. Now there are 20 prisons and eight mental institutions. This generated a vehement and virulent response in the groups that have worked for years to keep people out of institutions, generally by relying on advances in medicines and early treatment. This was all before the recent killings.

It is a debate worth having, but while the advances in medicines and early treatment have helped millions, it is difficult to refute the empirical evidence presented not only by the apparent increase in mass homicidal attacks by mentally ill people but also the concurrent increase in the number of homeless–many of whom, 30 years ago, would have been part of an institutional program.

 

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