Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Its Time For A "National" Discussion Of Mental Health

How many lives is it going to take before this country gets serious about mental health? How many kids, acting like adults, how many adults acting like kids, how many PTSD soldiers, how many sick or elderly will it take before the people of the United States and their elected officials sit down "together" and discuss what is appropriate to protect not only the lives of our loved ones but the lives of those so desperately crying out for help? If you really want to either shut down or cause a riot at the dinner table bring up the subject of mental health.

Listening to the father in Isla Vista whose son was shot down getting a snack it would be so easy to blame the gun lobby. They are surely not without guilt. You do not need an AK-47 to go deer hunting. Ask any NRA member about limiting his rights and you can be assured of a real argument. However, lets look at the facts, at least in this case.

Rodger killed three people with a knife. He stabbed them to death. That's pretty up close and personal. What rage in him triggered such violence? Then he started driving around. Yes, he used guns and three deaths are attributed to him using a gun. However, he also used his car as a battering ram hitting people on the streets, killing one. The argument then is do we ban knives and cars too? Clearly there is something wrong with our procedures that allowed a person like Rodger to get guns but there are other factors in play here too.

Do we, as the Mayor of Santa Barbara so clearly said, work on ways to identify and get those in need of mental help, HELP? Rodger was not without visits from the police. In fact they even have a card that has to be filled out after each visit. However, did the police see those YouTube videos? Did they read the 137 page manifesto? How would they know? However, his parents did and were literally on their way to their troubled son as he was on his rampage.

Many professionals blame the current mental health state of affairs on first Governor and then President Ronald Reagan. There was a movement to "save" money and the ACLU had filed a series of lawsuits about putting people in mental institutions against their will. In an era of deregulation it was the perfect marriage, some would say, in hell. People like Rodger and many many others, people we choose not to see living under bridge viaducts, remote canyons below the freeways, alleyways, doorways on Broadway in Los Angeles, many of these people were cut loose to be "free." They were and are not free of their illnesses today, if they were ever.

New laws were put into place to protect these people and at most, unless it could be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt they were mentally unfit had to be cut loose in 72 hours. The questions remains, the CATCH-22 of our times, if you were insane would you know it? Are you are right mind if you have committed an act that endangers not only your life but the lives of others? What many citizens fail to realize is that our Constitution guarantees you rights, many rights in fact. However, your rights end when they infringe on the rights of others. Think about it. Your rights end when they infringe on the rights of others. Your rights can be taken away and appropriate laws are in place that allow just that. Why are there not appropriate laws to protect you, and others, from yourself?

Mental health abuse goes back even before the beginning of time. Every society has dealt with it in a variety of ways. Even today, in the 21st Century, for many being insane is a frightening word and thought. We are simply not prepared to deal with it. Every event in the past decade, every man-child that has committed some kind of carnage has had parents that were either clueless or unwilling to face the facts. Here in Rodger's case, his mother thought giving him a BMW would give him more self esteem. Before we condemn her though, consider, what kind of training did she have? Her son apparently had much counseling, did she? Who helps the parents of these children? In hindsight what would we have done? Would we have been any different? This needs to be part of the discussion. A mentally ill person does NOT operate in a vacuum. Others are involved...and all of them need to be in the discussion. We have to get over this idea that what you think is yours alone. If it might endanger others, then the rules need to be amended, the individual should not be allowed to wallow in them alone. The book needs to be open to all who need to know.

We need to work out a series of procedures that are national, that protect the person from undue incarceration yet realize the reality of their situation. A mentally ill person cannot make a valid decision. We need to have places to take these people, people to interview them and if possible their parents. We need a place to place them and help them heal and if not, keep them so they are no longer a danger to themselves or others.

Tell me, which is cheaper? What will the investigations cost? Is there any way to put a value on the lifetime of heartache the surviving family members must deal with? The definition of civilization is that you do not kill the stranger when he appears in your midst. Might not the same standard be applied to the mentally ill? We do not kill them instead trying first to make them whole again and failing that, protecting them to the end of their days?

We need to be far more aware of social media and make it loud and clear for everyone to report the kinds of posting Rodger did. It wouldn't take a health care professional to know this person was in trouble.

We have a Bill of Rights, maybe its time for a "Mental" Bill of Rights that informs each and every citizen of his rights and when his rights may be taken away. We owe it to the memories of those lost and we need to, as best we can, deal with it in the future.

I urge, each and every one of you to begin the discussion. The time has come and we as a nation owe it to ourselves and our fellow citizens.

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