home Current Events America Needs to Come to Grips with Mental Illness, its Connection to Violence

America Needs to Come to Grips with Mental Illness, its Connection to Violence

When bad things happen in our country such as the mass murder in Newton, Connecticut this past week, I am reminded of a quote by Founding Father James Madison. Madison penned in Federalist 55:

As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.

This depravity that Madison references will always be with us. It is how we deal with it that sets us apart from the savages. I tend to think that bad things will keep happening no matter what we do at the local, state, and federal levels of government. I do not like it, but that is how it is. It will always be that way. Evil people, psychotics, and others that want to do harm will find a way to do it.

In movies such as this classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, what was thought to be modern psychiatry came under attack. It brought this taboo issue to the masses and the system started to change, some would say for the better. But is it really?

The attack this week, as well as most in recent history in the United States, can be traced to the failure of the medical establishment and law enforcement community, as well as our society, to come to grips with mental illness and its treatment. We can also include liberal lawyers who have twisted our legal processes to that extend more protections to the mentally ill than the victims of their crimes. There is statistical data to back this up.

Compared to most societies in modern history, the last few centuries, America is safe and secure, and will continue to be so as long as we pass along to future generations basic values, yes values, about how we treat one another, placing a high value on life, and respect for your fellow man. I’m not one of those who think a violent movie or video game, alone, makes someone do bad deeds. However, a toxic culture, over the long-term, can make people indifferent and the weak minded prone to think about things that maybe they would not.

Focusing on the means of crime, the guns, will do nothing to curb violence. If not with gun, they’ll find another way. No guns were used on 9/11. No guns were used in the Oklahoma City bombing that resulted in the death of 19 children and more than 140 adults. And, as much as it pains me to write this, the worse mass killing in U.S. history took place in 1927, not last week as many reporters have erroneously stated on television.  Thirty-eight children died, along with several adults, in what came to be called the Michigan Bath School killings. The primary weapon used? Explosives, not guns.

There are crimes that were committed that should have never happened but did because our legal and mental health system failed to keep these people locked up (the word used to be, institutionalized, or mental asylum, etc.). I think the spike in violent crime can be tied to the failed policies of the 1970s and how we “treat” people with mental illness, not guns.

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue, it is a reflection on all of us. People do not like to deal with unpleasant things such as the sick – physical or mental – or poverty and many other challenges faced by a people. But we need to pay closer attention. I’m not sure what the solution is, but, we must first acknowledge that this is a mental health challenge and that the doctors, lawyers and other charged with this task failed. There is a good pool of smart people who study crimes such as these and these folks, along with mental health professionals, need to continue their work and make recommendations about how to deal with it.

Tragically none of this is of any solace to the families who lost loved ones this week in that sleepy town in Connecticut.

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