What No One Wants to Talk About Regarding the Aurora, Colorado Shootings
This was not just a tragedy for the people who were shot, injured and killed, this was a tragedy for the attacker. People being interviewed are now coming forward saying they knew he was, at best, troubled. I am sick of politicians- and even our President- pontificating about decisions, morals and “evil”. This is a healthcare problem. Shootings will continue until mental health services become a priority.
People can speculate all they want to about decisions and value judgments, but those concepts are not relevant to mental illness. Mental illness cannot be subordinated by logic, ethics or willpower. If resolving mental illness were that simple, no one would be mentally ill. Mental illness has the power to subvert, skew or delete what a majority of us would hold in consensus to logical or appropriate. Mental disorders are not personal deficits; they are serious medical problems. Mental illness takes many forms, including violence in the form of attacks on others or suicides. These wind up being the the rare instances where we pay attention to the fact that mental illness exists at all.
Our nation stigmatizes mental illness, shuns people with mental illness and portrays them as weak, deficient in capabilities rather than afflicted with illness. Even people with health care insurance that properly covers mental and emotional care get run through an inconsistent, fragmented medical system, risk being drugged with a plethora of pharmaceuticals that are random / frequently experimental / ineffective, all of which usually brings financial ruin upon middle class or lower economic families. There is little to no care for people without insurance. People do not care about this problem, since it is portrayed as and held to be a personal deficit; the burden of coping with illness is wholly upon the mentally ill person. It’s our fault that we allow these atrocious social views and disregard the need for comprehensive public health care. It’s easy to get weapons and extraordinarily difficult to get help. The Columbine shootings happen, followed by that boy that shot his principal, the Virginia Tech massacre, the Northwest University shootings and now a movie theater in Colorado. A violent event flares up in the media, becomes the horror show of the moment and nothing changes. No one wants to draw a cause-and-effect relationship to these situations, unless they want to militarize social settings or alter laws. We need to address the underlying problem of a lack of care. Chicago is shutting down and has shut down city-funded mental health care centers, just like other parts of the country. And history will repeat itself as denial leads us to believe in evil and isolated incidents rather than patterns and prevention.
We need to reach out to people in distress where we can and advocate for real change so that deranged persons do not think violence – toward others or themselves- is a viable response to their distress. We need to change the culture and regard people with mental illness as deserving of compassion and support as those with other severe illnesses like cancer. This is a healthcare problem. Shootings will continue until mental health services become a priority.