A Madman and a Crack – Consequences of Ignoring Mental Illness

At the age when most people have their entire lives ahead of them, 22-year-old Jared Loughner is said to have fallen through the cracks of gun control laws that prohibit the mentally ill from purchasing a firearm. Although it would be convenient and perhaps even soothing for some to blame what happened in Arizona on a madman and a crack, the truth of the matter is, there wasn’t a crack for Jared to fall through.

At this point in the investigation, it appears that Jared, along with millions of others across the United States, had not been treated for any sort of mental disorder because he had yet to seek help and, likely, did not realize he was suffering from a mental disorder. There was no crack for Jared to fall through, because there was no available avenue for him at that time to help pave the way so he could lead a normal, healthy, stable life.

Source

Who Can We Blame?

Do we blame the clip that held three dozen bullets, and the legislation that was allowed to expire prohibiting the sale of these types of clips? Do we blame the state of Arizona for being one of three states that allow people to carry loaded guns around wherever they please? Do we blame the media who sometimes communicate in crazy-speak to their viewers, knowing their viewers do not take a mental evaluation prior to turning on the tube? Or do we simply blame a madman and a crack?

It seems if we can point a finger at someone, one sole person, our country is better able to cope with this sort of tragedy that occurs far too often. It is much easier to shrug the matter off and move on when we can place blame on one individual.

Apparently, the majority of us have decided to blame the madman and a non-existent crack. And some of us are still bickering over who it is we should blame. We will put 22-year-old Jared Loughner behind bars or legally murder him, and we will soon forget, sit, and wait for the next madman to arrive, while Jared's parents try to cope with what their son has done as well as dealing with losing him as well.

Is it normal for people who suffer from a mental disorder to realize that they have a mental disorder?

If they do have this self-realization, is it normal for this to occur at 22 years old and at the early onset of mental illness?

I believe that the answer to both of these questions is no.

While Jared’s parents have yet to step forward and reveal how they perceived their son’s mental health, Jared’s friends did appear on 60 Minutes and openly admitted that they were aware of personality and behavioral changes that were strange and off-the-wall.

Should we, therefore, place the blame on his friends and family? We might have to address the social stigmas that surround mental illness if we found blame with his family and friends. It is completely plausible that they turned a blind eye and chose to deny the signs of mental illness because of society’s ignorant perception towards people with mental disorders.

And what about treatment? Did Jared and/or his parents have the means to pay for diagnosis and treatment of a mental illness if they were willing to accept that their son might be mentally unstable? If so, would Jared have received adequate and appropriate treatment, and in time to prevent the tragedy in Arizona?


What the Data Suggests

A 2005 article in the SFGate outlines the prevalence of mental disorders based upon a five-year study. The study indicated that half of the population in the United States will meet the criteria for a mental disorder (i.e. post-partum depression, anxiety, mood disorders) at some point in their life and that the care for people who suffer from mental disorders is less than adequate. Furthermore, the study concluded that mental disorders often begin in childhood or adolescence.

Ronald Kessler, Harvard Medical School epidemiologist, states in the article, “Mental disorders are really the most important chronic conditions of youth in America. Sadly, these early onset disorders very seldom come to the attention of the treatment system unless they’re very severe.”

Ronald Kessler concluded that intervention and/or early treatment needed to focus on youth, and, additionally, that it sometimes takes decades for people to seek help.

This is disturbing information and not to be taken lightly nor should it be ignored.

Why do people wait so long to seek treatment? Perhaps it has something to do with how we have dealt with mental illness in the past.

How We Deal with the Mentally Ill - Past and Present

Virginia is credited with the first insane asylum in the United States in 1773. Virginia’s second asylum followed in 1802, with a third in 1870 for African Americans.

With little understood about mental disorders, it was easier at that time to deal with the mentally unstable by locking them up in institutions and forgetting about them.

Subject to abuse and treatment that included shock therapy and lobotomies, patients sometimes starved to death because of the severe lack of funding during times of war and economic turmoil. It wasn’t until the mid-1940s that asylums were exposed for inhumane treatment of their patients. And it wasn’t until 1950 that the first anti-psychotic drug was developed.

Through the years 1955-1968, the population of residents in asylums across the country dropped by 30%. One could reasonably surmise that this decrease was due to both the development of the anti-psychotic drug and the exposure of patient abuses.

Unfortunately, a large part of the rest of the world seems to lag behind the United States.

Eugene Richards, photographer for Newsweek Magazine, traveled the world photographing asylums. The pictures reflect images of patients lying on urine-stained floors, patients grouped together in small rooms or locked up individually in cages, and even a young boy who will spend his life in an asylum lying next to his mother deemed mentally ill, incurable and hopeless.

Not only are these images heartbreaking, but they likely represent what our asylums looked like well into the mid 1900s.

We’ve Come a Long Way. Haven’t We?

Today we have medications, therapy, and psychiatric hospitals. People are able to lead normal lives with proper treatment. Well, at least those who are able to afford what might be considered a luxury to others. For many people who are unable to achieve the financial means to seek treatment, the result is living on the streets.

People with mental illness, regardless of the severity, without available means of obtaining treatment, will often find it difficult to maintain a job.

And while there are social programs for our country’s homeless that assist with housing and job training, most of these programs across the country do not incorporate mental health services with temporary housing and job assistance due to lack of funding.

In 2008, a 25-city survey conducted by the US Conference of Mayors concluded that the three most common reasons for homelessness are:

  1. substance abuse
  2. lack of affordable housing
  3. mental illness

While many people may hold no sympathy for those who abuse drugs and as a result live on the streets, it is important to realize that substance abuse and mental illness often go hand in hand. Without treatment, it is not uncommon for many people to abuse alcohol and/or drugs as a means to self-medicate.

Long forgotten are the days of insane asylums. Today we allow people to wander the streets with no end in sight.

No, I don’t believe that we have come a long way.

Who Helped Jared?

So far, it seems as though the only person(s) who stepped forward to take any sort of initiative is the college that Jared attended; however, it seems the action taken was not out of concern for Jared’s well-being, but, instead, the action was taken on behalf of the numerous students who complained about Jared’s behavior. It was much easier to expel him and be done with him than it was to offer any assistance whatsoever. No counseling, no resources; just a letter saying see you later, you need to see a shrink.

 

Accepting Mental Disorders and Mental Illness

Perhaps it is difficult for family members and friends to accept the possibility that a loved one may be suffering from a mental illness.  However, if acceptance cannot be swallowed, especially at the first signs something might be wrong, the consequences could be dire, ranging from ruined relationships to death.

Awareness and Intervention for Mental Disorders and Mental Illnesses

The National Institute of Mental Health provides free publications for a wide variety of mental illnesses that list signs, symptoms and treatments for each.  The publications can be viewed on the internet here.  You can also order a free hardcopy publication here.

The National Institute of Mental Health also provides a link to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), link here.  At SAMHSA you will also find free publications and a phone number (1-800-622-4357) that will assist you in locating free or low-cost mental health services in your area.

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Comments 14 comments

Brenda Durham 5 years ago

Good article on a very important subject.

Thanks Deni.


Deni Edwards profile image

Deni Edwards 5 years ago from california Author

Thanks, Brenda!


rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 5 years ago from Tampa Bay

You've written an excellent hub on such an important topic.

Why does it always take a tragedy to get the attention of the American public? I hope something valuable will come from this incident. Blaming never solves problems. Thumbs up.


Jillian Barclay profile image

Jillian Barclay 5 years ago from California, USA

Great article, Deni!

I have heard several different reports that point out that with all of the Arizona budget cuts, even if Loughner's parents had wanted to help their son(difficult first, because he was over 18)they would have been unable to find any county or state programs in Arizona if he was not on any private insurance that covered any mental health services. Everyone says they want mental health services for people in trouble, but no one is willing to pay for it. As a country, we are unwilling to pay for anything, even the wars we send our soldiers into, food for our own children that are starving, and health care for the 50 million uninsured.

The stigma of seeking help has never disappeared. We may want to think that we are a sophisticated country, but in the area of mental health, we are not.

These horrors will continue because as a country we have a short attention span and the unwillingness to pay for anything. Lack of mental health services are one of our many dirty little secrets.


HSchneider 5 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

You are quite right with this Hub and this has been the least talked about aspect of the Tucson tragedy. We as a citizenry already fund an anemic portion of our budgets to address mental health problems. Now with state budgets under huge pressure due to the economic downturn, we are cutting mental health programs faster and greater than other areas. Gov. Jan Brewer in Arizona has cut $35,000,000 just as this massacre occurred. The bottom line is that it is easier for politicians to ignore this problem than others. They just increase police forces and prisons to solve it. We need to treat the causes of these disesases and not their aftermaths. Thank you for so thoughtfully and effectively writing on the state of our mental health programs in this country.


Deni Edwards profile image

Deni Edwards 5 years ago from california Author

H- I saw Jan Brewer making a statement to the press about the shooting, and I just shook my head thinking about all of those funds she cut, too. Unfortunately, I don't believe she has linked the two issues together. Thanks for reading and adding some great comments.

Jillian-Thanks for the comments. Yeah, they do increase the prisons to solve this problem--sort of like a modern-day insane asylum.

Hi, Rebekah, Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the hub. Unfortunatley, I think it will take many more tragedies like this to get people to focus on this issue. As H put it so well: "We as a citizenry already fund an anemic portion of our budgets to address mental health problems."


JON EWALL profile image

JON EWALL 5 years ago from usa

Deni Edwards

How about the BLAME game. How about what is being fed to our youth on television, the internet, news media, what’s being taught in our schools, video games on how to kill and hurt people, drugs in our schools and society, the radicals teaching our kids to disrespect authority and the police, disrespect of our parents, the movies coming out of Hollywood (sex and violence) and last but not least, the examples of government officials greed and dishonesty. Mental illness could happen to anyone if they are bombarded with social disturbances in their early youth while developing into a young person. The last 5 years from his junior year in high school up to today he developed an anger and hatred for and against society.

He's is not a mental misfit, just another with thoughts of a columbine adventure. When will we wake up to what the country is becoming as far as our youth is concerned. God and the family is no longer the foundation of our society. We would allow them to be on welfare rather than getting them jobs , teaching them how to take care of themselves and not to rely on others taking care of them.


Deni Edwards profile image

Deni Edwards 5 years ago from california Author

Jon, with all due respect, the majority of your comments are the reason I entitled the hub: Consequences of Ignoring Mental Illness.

Mental disorders are real and happen to both young people and older people, people who play video games and people who don't, people who regularly attend movies and those who don't, people who attend church regularly and those who don't, people who attend private schools and public schools, etc.

There are those that have mild forms (that without treatment, could get worse) and severe forms of mental disorders from panic, anxiety, post-partum, and PMS related disorders to schizophrenia and biopolar disorder.

We always seem to be surprised when a tragedy like this happens, but it happens too often and will continue to happen until people have the ways and means to get help.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

Besides so many tragedies in this world, such as child abuse and even senseless wars, untreated mental illness is truly a matter of concern. I really hope experts will come forward to promote the seriousness of this and to instigate proper treatment and care. This was a very interesting hub, Deni. I honestly hope it will encourage people with appropriate influence to act without further delay. Well done!


Woman Of Courage profile image

Woman Of Courage 5 years ago

Great hub. Mental illness is serious and the signs should not be ignored. I agree with MartieCoetser. Thanks for sharing.


JON EWALL profile image

JON EWALL 5 years ago from usa

Deni Edwards

Fox News broke a story about kids in the second grade having oral sex. The teacher didn't see it happening. The school was in Oakland, California.

Here's another fact. in the US 21% of married couples have 2 children and 20% of single unmarried have 2 children.

Wake up America, something is wrong in our society.


tysanders profile image

tysanders 5 years ago from Atlanta, Ga

Excellent content! Voted up by me.


Deni Edwards profile image

Deni Edwards 5 years ago from california Author

Thank you, tysanders. Your hub on mental illness is cites the same--maintaining mental health is as equally as important as physical health!


JON EWALL profile image

JON EWALL 5 years ago from usa

Deni Edwards

''Consequences of Ignoring Mental Illness.''

Jarred seemed to be a regular young man up to his junior high school year. Something drastically went wrong.He started drugs and got to be a very angry person. He dropped out of his senior year, wonder what really happened in his life to make that decision.

In a short period of time he became MENTALLY unbalanced. Society and schooling is that where it all happened?

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