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Consequences of lack of mental health servicesAs we have another horrifying shooting in...

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mizzwillie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted December 15, 2012 at 4:14 PM via web

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Consequences of lack of mental health services

As we have another horrifying shooting in a small school perpetrated by a now dead young man, we hear the words, "mental health issues".   Many will see this as an issue of gun control laws, and maybe it is that also, but I see this as a failure of our society to acknowledge and help the mentally ill.  They show up with veterans returning who commit suicide, in the jails because they have no medications or doctors to help, in crises like these, and under the bridges of our cities.  Considering the woefully underfunded and understaffed crisis centers or lack of ongoing help, do you think anything will now change or if so, how will it change? Will mental illness still be an undiscussed subject in families or society?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 15, 2012 at 4:36 PM (Answer #2)

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I agree with the premise of the post, but unless I'm wrong, we do not yet know if the man responsible for the shootings had a record of mental health issues. So while clearly we need to improve the way we deal with this public health crisis (and it is that) it is difficult to know the extent to which this played a role. 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 15, 2012 at 5:46 PM (Answer #3)

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To me, mental health services are something that cannot ever really be provided by the government.  There is no way that we can afford to pay the kind of money that it would take to ensure that everyone was in good mental health.  My impression, at least is that managing mental and emotional problems is an ongoing process that takes a lot of counseling and/or medication.  I also have the impression that it is not possible to "cure" people quickly so our choices would be to institutionalize people (at great expense and perhaps against their will) or to still "roll the dice" and have them out in the world even as they are being treated.

I guess my point is that this would cost us a huge amount of money and would still not guarantee our safety.  It might not even help make us any safer at all.  In addition, we would never know whether it had made us safer or not.  It's awfully hard to ask for taxpayer money to be used in that fashion (even if we do essentially the same thing with the TSA).

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 15, 2012 at 7:05 PM (Answer #4)

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Unfortunately, I do not think anything will change.  This is not the first such tragedy, and it won’t be the last.  Shootings like this do tend to happen in sprees.  That we had two such events so close together is not unusual either, unfortunately.

There are almost always signs that these people are disturbed.  We need to start paying attention to them.

Pushing the blame onto guns diverts it from where the real need is: better, more comprehensive mental health services and facilities; addressing these issues in their infancy when they're first manifesting in childhood or puberty instead of assuming 'it's just a phase' … (cnn.com, 10 ways)

In the end, schools are high-profile targets, just like malls, because of the number of innocent victims.  These deranged individuals want to make their crimes as spectacular as possible.  We ignore this behavior in children, and then mourn it when those children become adults.

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 15, 2012 at 7:46 PM (Answer #5)

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The challenge is that "mental illness" is not one easily defined and restricted set of needs, which means it does not meet one clear criterion for diagnosis or for treatment. There are an huge number of factors that combine in an infinite number of ways, making recognition of the need for some sort of treatment extremely challenging and determination of appropriate treatment very difficult if one is identified as being in need of some sort of help.

We need to continue to work on raising awareness of and sensitivity to issues and behaviors that could be indications of potential concerns. We need to strive to identify common causative factors among the too-many shootings that have taken place over recent years. We need to try to find ways of approaching persons so as to be able to offer support and help in addressing perceived or real mental challenges without offending those who might be identified by mistake.

And we need to pray for God's comfort for the families of all the victims - those who lost their lives, those who lost their innocence, and those who have to deal with unspeakable acts committed by a family member whom they thought they knew.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted December 16, 2012 at 4:09 AM (Answer #6)

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I am not clear on why taxpayers should not pay for the treatment of mental illness for those who are use Medicaid, Medicare, or any other government subsidized program.  For one thing, the costs of not doing so are clearly greater than the costs of doing so, not simply, as the most recent tragedy demonstrates, in lost lives, but also in unemployment, crimes committed, incarcerations, and concomitantly, a far higher incidence of physical ailments. Furthermore, not addressing the problem of mental illness is a loss of whatever creativity and effort those with mental illness could give, as demonstrated so well in A Beautiful Mind (Nasar).  Another troubling aspect to this stance is that diabetes, hypertension, and many other physical ailments are those we do seem to be more willing to take care of at taxpayer expense.  These are incurable ailments, costing significant amounts to treat, too.  I always suspect some sort of "blame" when people balk at treating the mentally ill.

I agree with the 5th post that mental illness is not just one disease, but a wide range of conditions that may fall anywhere on the continuum between pathological and normal.  One consequence of tragedies such as that in Connecticut is that people seem to believe that mentally ill people are often violent.  This is not the case at all, and I do believe statistics support the notion that mentally ill people are no more violent than the rest of us. 

All in all, I believe it is incumbent upon a society to treat its mentally ill, for practical and compassionate reasons.  It costs us monetarily, and it costs us as an ostensibly humanitarian society to not do so. 

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mwalter822 | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted December 17, 2012 at 2:51 AM (Answer #7)

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Is this sort of violence really more of an issue now than it has been in the past, or are we just so inundated with sensationalized press coverage that it seems to be? The media loves these kinds of stories, although I'm sure they don't love the actual tragedie themselves, and they milk them for all they're worth.

There is a certain very small segment of society that aspires to the kind of attention and "martyrdom" that these killers attain. It doesn't matter that there is only miniscule number of people like this. As we have seen, it only takes one to put the entire media machine into a frenzy. You can bet that all of the current furor is probably helping to create the next madman.

I don't think any amount of publis mental health funding will change this particular phenomenon, although I do think it could help other people with less violent mental issues.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 17, 2012 at 3:26 AM (Answer #8)

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Another point to remember in this debate is that, at the present time and for the next year at least, when the mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) kicks in, we still have about 48.6 million people without health insurance, and therefore virtually no access to mental health care.  These often tend to be the poor and working poor, who also tend to live in higher crime areas and suffer higher rates of family dysfunction.


Add to this the hundreds of thousands of American veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with significant rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (up to 20% according to the Rand Corporation) and a VA hospital system that is completely inadequate to the needs and numbers of these vets and you have the makings of a long, painful road for America and her mentally ill.

The gun control debate is a healthy one to have at this juncture, but without looking at our entire mental health system, I do not expect much to change in the near future.  In fact, I believe it will get worse before it gets better.  Let's hope I am wrong.

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mizzwillie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted December 17, 2012 at 3:56 AM (Answer #9)

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I am not clear on why taxpayers should not pay for the treatment of mental illness for those who are use Medicaid, Medicare, or any other government subsidized program.  For one thing, the costs of not doing so are clearly greater than the costs of doing so, not simply, as the most recent tragedy demonstrates, in lost lives, but also in unemployment, crimes committed, incarcerations, and concomitantly, a far higher incidence of physical ailments. Furthermore, not addressing the problem of mental illness is a loss of whatever creativity and effort those with mental illness could give, as demonstrated so well in A Beautiful Mind (Nasar).  Another troubling aspect to this stance is that diabetes, hypertension, and many other physical ailments are those we do seem to be more willing to take care of at taxpayer expense.  These are incurable ailments, costing significant amounts to treat, too.  I always suspect some sort of "blame" when people balk at treating the mentally ill.

I agree with the 5th post that mental illness is not just one disease, but a wide range of conditions that may fall anywhere on the continuum between pathological and normal.  One consequence of tragedies such as that in Connecticut is that people seem to believe that mentally ill people are often violent.  This is not the case at all, and I do believe statistics support the notion that mentally ill people are no more violent than the rest of us. 

All in all, I believe it is incumbent upon a society to treat its mentally ill, for practical and compassionate reasons.  It costs us monetarily, and it costs us as an ostensibly humanitarian society to not do so. 

What a very thoughtful response to a very difficult issue.  Most mentally ill people are not violent, and I agree most of all that if we do not treat the mentally ill, the costs are far more than monetary.  You've answered this with what I believe, and said it far more clearly than I would have.  Thank you so much for your answer as I have both a sister and a son with mental health issues.  They are managing well with help, but I see too many others with no help at all.  President Obama said tonight that we must change; I so hope that we do as a nation.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 17, 2012 at 4:12 PM (Answer #10)

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I believe that even if mental health facilities were readily available for all Americans, many people would be unwilling to admit their problem and refuse to be treated. Certainly, it would be great to presently initiate such treatment in children as a regular part of health care (at schools, if necessary), and future generations might eventually benefit from such a program.

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