My Wish for 2013

I started writing a post about this subject right after the Connecticut killings but it requires a lot of research which was a bit too much at that particular time (and still is, actually).  Maybe sometime I’ll finish it, when I can stomach it.  For now, these are my thoughts.

I wish that people were talking about care for the mentally ill in America, and making it a priority.  I wish we were screaming about it.  Yes, we need some form of gun control, but young people (and kids) weren’t shooting up schools and malls and wherever else they could find masses of people – until America was deinstitutionalized.

We should never go back to the way things were in institutions, we’d need the same controls and regulations that regular “medical” hospitals have.  It would cost a lot of money.  It would save a lot of lives.

This is just the beginning.  I worked in the mental health field around the end of the era of deinstitutionalization.  NO ONE but the super wealthy can afford to keep their kids (or adults) in in-patient facilities once their insurance runs out (if they even have insurance to cover it for any period of time in the first place).  And unless the patient is a *significant* danger to themselves or to others *at the time of their release* – they will be sent home.  This is a big reason that our homeless population ballooned – because they mentally ill are dumped on the streets if they have no one to take care of them.  Relatively few people can handle taking care of a severely mentally ill person, let alone an adult.

For the adolescents who are dumped back home and into society – well, if they “do something” (like torture and kill the new family puppy or molest or rape their little sister or brother), then they’ll be allowed back in – but not for long.  It’s just the way it is.

Look into it, deeply – research it – the unavailability of affordable care is far worse than you might hink.

These severely mentally ill people who have been dumped back into their homes and into society, sometimes go on to kill people, including little kids.  What’s next, a Day Care center with infants and toddlers?  Why not?  We never thought an elementary school would be a target.

Or for those who don’t kill other people, they grow up and raise kids who do, because they weren’t equipped to raise healthy kids.  Because their own mental illness was never properly treated. This is how these societal “trends” happen.  You see the first wave, which many people easily associate with whatever major change has occurred recently…but the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc., waves become distanced in time from that major change and the association becomes forgotten.  Everyone asks, “what’s happening, why are people suddenly doing this?”…you have to go back and look at what major societal change occurred around the time the events began.  It’s clear in this case that deinstitutionalization created this trend.

Well, that and the ubiquitous use of psychotropic drugs – “antidepressants” beginning with the straight SSRIs like Prozac and Paxil.  Those drugs were meant to be an adjunct to therapy – to allow the patient to become stable enough to participate in productive therapy.  Instead, they quickly became the only “treatment”.

Your doctor (who has no specialized mental health care qualifications whatsoever) gives you a prescription and then just adjusts the dosage now and then – no therapy, and in fact, if you seek therapy, you will almost certainly only be able to see a social worker – a LCSW.  It’s very uncommon to be able to receive therapy from a psychologist or psychiatrist.  This topic is FULL of problems and is clearly not working.

I live in Portland, Oregon, and we’ve had several “incidents” of this type…so it does hit home.  Kip Kinkel was just 15 years old when he killed his parents and then shot up Thurston High School.  I still hear about the Clackamas Town Center Mall shooting every night on the news. I don’t hear anything about the 11-year-old boy who held a gun on a woman in a church parking lot in December…I guess that’s because the police discovered they could arrest the father.  A 7-year-old was with him when he did this.  What of this 7-year-old?  Who knows.  He was carrying the bullets for the gun, so he wasn’t some innocent bystander who inadvertently got mixed up in this mess.  And will that 11-year-old get the psychiatric treatment he needs?  Highly doubtful.  So there will be more victims in his future.

It’s a certainty that these mass killings (and many other heinous crimes, many of which are violent sex crimes) will continue unless we start treating our mentally ill citizens.

It’s barbaric, the way America treats (and does not medically treat) our mentally ill.  I hate it when I see people interviewed on TV calling the killers “pure evil”.  Maybe they are, I don’t know – but I do think that America, the country that’s supposed to be the leader of the Free World, is perhaps most guilty of being “evil” for denying it’s citizens proper mental health care.  We should be bombarding Congress with pleas and demands for the proper care of our mentally ill.

But I get the feeling there is still so much stigma with mental illness, that we collectively, subconsciously, turn a blind eye and look for other villains to blame…whatever or whomever they may be.  Mental illness makes people uncomfortable…it’s awkward and ugly, and it’s easier to just look away.  And so the killings will continue.