Meds For Our Mentality

Stop.

Just stop.

Put your pitchforks down. Cool your jets with your Facebook postings.

And, for the love of humanity, stop trying to solve the guns with guns.

All of it is a moot point. You’re missing the issue entirely.

These horrific acts of violence aren’t solely to be blamed on video games or the NRA or My Chemical Romance.

Many of these things absolutely are smaller pieces to a bigger puzzle, but they aren’t the problem. They merely and unfortunately compliment the larger problem of care for the mentally ill (or lack thereof) in this country.

It’s unfortunate when people from all political sides use a tragedy to push their own agenda; all while missing the point completely. Christians use the deaths of 20 children to prove this country’s lack of faith. Republicans use a mass shooting to show that we all need to carry more guns. Democrats use it to up their support on a dozen different gun bans.

Seriously though, that isn’t the problem.

Just to be clear, I would like to see a country where no one owned any weapons, but that’s another issue. Hundreds of thousands of people own guns without senselessly murdering each other. And I’m not even going to go into the issue of religion or lack of faith being the cause of senseless deaths, because the absurdity of that thought process doesn’t warrant a response. What does demand the public’s attention, though, is the way we treat our mentally ill in this country. People with mental illness(es) are one of the most neglected groups there are. Why is that?

There are nets to catch people in poverty. There is help if you need medical attention. There are food stamps if you’re hungry. But God forbid a teenager has a mental breakdown!

No, the typical insurance plan will only cover up to a few days of in-patient treatment (if that). And what happens after a person leaves their 72-hour suicide watch? They certainly aren’t better in three days. What can be done to help the parent of a mentally ill, and possibly violent, child in 72 hours? Essentially, nothing.

While parents are left with the decision to either let their child abuse them or to press charges and let their child go to jail, there really isn’t much hope either way.

Even adolescents in jail don’t receive the proper mental health treatment they need. In fact, studies show that upwards of 75 percent of adolescents in the criminal justice system have an untreated mental illness.
A half century ago, this never would have happened.

A child with a mental illness would have been taken from their home and forcibly treated. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a good thing, but it shows that some sort of treatment is possible.

So, why is it that we now refuse to treat people who clearly need it? Kids that attempt suicide or threaten to kill their parents daily; these kids aren’t getting help.

Since the mid 1980s, the mental health community has taken some of the largest cuts from the government; over $2 billion just in the last three years.

Almost every year, there are less mental health services available than the previous year. In fact, over 3,222 psychiatric hospital beds have disappeared in the last three years. That’s over 3,000 mentally ill people who were in dire need of treatment but did not receive it. Considering the statistic that mental illness affects 1 out of every 10 people, you would think we would try a little harder to care for each other. For our own community. Our own family.

So, yes, all of the things Twitter and FOX News are blowing up about are important.

The fact that the media sensationalizes and turns each shooter into a sort of anti-hero, the fact that kids are desensitized to violence from a young age (and you can blame video games or movies or whatever you want) and the fact that, apparently, the only solution to people having guns is for more people to have guns; they’re all a small piece of the pie.

But don’t forget, it’s our society that has stigmatized mental illness and decided that the people who need the help the most are the ones we’ll neglect.

Justin Huft is a fourth-year psychology and social behavior, and social ecology double major. He can be reached at jhuft@uci.edu.