Friday, July 19, 2013
We just do not get it!
I just finished reading Associated Press writer Dan Elliott's article on the tragedy in Aurora Colorado; "A year after the shooting, James Holmes still an enigma". Instead of opening my eyes to something new, it brought a sense of both frustration and of resignation in that it focused only on James Holmes the Individual. Along with that, a feeling of dejection because knowing that even after several high profile tragedies, the public just does not have a firm grasp on the root causes and what can be done to prevent future mass killings!
In this editorial, Mr. Elliott tries to explain the question regarding how this seemingly intelligent young man suddenly became a notorious killer. He went on to provide brief glimpses into the little we do know about James Holmes, but not enough to understand why he committed this atrocity. Here and now, I am going to provide Mr. Elliott his answer and it is he did not just become this killer, it is something he was born with which is severe mental illness. Additionally, the true culprit in this case is the American people's accepting that people afflicted do not have the same social value as the so-called, "normal people" possess!
The one area that Mr. Elliot and others constantly ignore is that this country has a barbaric sense in how to treat those with mental illness. We do not provide the necessary treatment, or modernized laws that are needed to allow people the right to live everyday fulfilling lives. None of that was pointed out in the column. Additionally, in spite of that tragedy, and others such as the one in Tucson Arizona, no significant changes have occurred to correct the inequities in the mental health system.
To his credit, Mr. Elliott did explore a question that begs answering, is that James Holmes made homicidal threats towards a Psychiatrist who then properly reported them to the University of Colorado Denver campus police. Here was an opportunity, within the confines of the archaic civil commitment laws, to take him into custody and finally begin a mental health evaluation. What is distressingly obvious is that this department never acted properly on those threats. That campus police department has not answered that bombshell, and unless there is a trial, they never will.
After this mass murder unfolded in that theater, I wrote that it was imperative that we focus on the causation factors in this case, not James Holmes himself. This young man was clearly disturbed, and yet, few people took steps to support him with the seemingly much needed help. Little had been made of the apparent symptoms that he displayed even before he was reported as a potential homicidal man.
It must be pointed out that I am not trying to victimize James Holmes, quite the contrary, he will be punished to fullest extent of the law for his actions. However, I am putting the mental health system on trial, and their failures deem a verdict of guilty as charged. Complicit in this verdict is the political leaders across the country from both parties. They have allowed people to live in appalling conditions brought on by these afflictions, and in response, cut the budgets to make treatment even more scarce for those in need. Instead of solutions, they take the position that "never let a good tragedy go to waste" and blame the other party for what happens. In this case, twelve people were killed and seventy wounded.
During speeches, I have been asked, what can be done to protect ourselves from people Like James Holmes and Jared Loughner, the gunman from the Tucson Tragedy. My answer is direct to the key issue, take action before they become psychotic killers. To begin with, we need to open the door for easier civil commitment. Then provide the required number of facilities to support that treatment, and finally, create more awareness of the symptoms of mental illness to eventually remove the shameful stigma that acts like a Scarlett letter on those who suffer in silence.
As easy as this sounds, it is a monumental task to bring true change. In Ohio, efforts to expand the Medicaid program to provide significantly more treatment for mental health care faces vigorous and powerful opposition in Columbus. The indications are that, once again, nothing of any substance will change, and people will be left desperately searching for proper care.
One issue that needs to highlighted is that generally, people with mental illness are not violent homicidal maniacs which is how many are portrayed. In fact, only about ten percent of all homicides are committed by people who are mentally ill. However, ninety five percent of all suicides are directly linked to those afflicted with mental illness.
As the one year anniversary of this tragedy has now arrived, there will be renewed, but brief interest in this case. Many will follow the lead of this Associated Press writer, and focus on exploiting the perpetrator. What is failed to be mentioned is that the true enigma is not people like James Holmes or Jared Loughner, it is the apathy and ignorance of the American political leaders. They have floundered many opportunities for change, and because of it, we await the next tragedy. Not if, but when.