The Andy Griffith Show vs. Today's Violence

As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency. - Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg

During mid-December 2012, when most Americans and International visitors would usually be ending school semesters and preparing for a number of winter holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year's, the nation was wailing in sorrow.

Radio reporters announced that Mother Jones Magazine had found some interesting though disturbing data. In the 30 years from 1982 through 2012, the USA had suffered 61 separate mass murders or an average of two per year. President Barack Obama reminded the nation in his televised speech on 12/16/2012 in Newtown, Connecticut that four of these deadly events had occurred during his first term in office.

The murdering of 20 first graders on 12/14/2012 with as many as 11 automatic firearms shots per child is unspeakable. The selfless heroism of the six murdered and many surviving teachers that saved all the other children in the grade K-4 elementary school reminds us of the scripture that lifts up those who give their lives for their fellow humans. The quick action of the first responders is already legendary. The outpouring of compassion from the rest of the nation toward the people of Newtown is overwhelming.

Outlying political squawks about gun control are out of place.

The promotion of gun control and even some of the sorrow for the gunman in the Sandy Hook school shootings distracts the nation from attending to the larger problem of Severe Mental Disorders (SMD) that is one of 1) undiagnosed or incorrectly diagnosed, 2) complicated by patient non-compliance with medication schedules, 3) complicated by failure of medical, school, and law enforcement authorities to act when red flags of SMD that indicate harm to self or others are clearly flown.

Personal Experience and SMD

My experience in these matters ranges from evaluating and assessing individuals for SMD, working on a team that provided treatment for patients with SMD, and living in a community in which several cases of mass shootings and planned attacks of a similar nature were handled by our justice system. These cases include the Highway Overpass Shooter as well as attempts to blow up shopping malls after 9/11.

Individuals with Severe Mental Disorders require intensive help. While I do not feel that they should be punished for their illnesses with mass institutionalization, nor punished criminally until competent to stand trial, I do feel that those that refuse to take medications as scheduled and those for whom no treatment works and who continue to present high potentials for harm to self and others need to be removed from public society.

Many wish for a return to the gentler life of Mayberry, North Carolina, kept safe by Sheriff Andy Taylor

Downtown Mayberry (Mt. Airy NC). The thought of simpler times can be magnetic. Visit Mt. Airy and see all the sites maintained as Mayberry history.
Downtown Mayberry (Mt. Airy NC). The thought of simpler times can be magnetic. Visit Mt. Airy and see all the sites maintained as Mayberry history. | Source

A Mother's Letter Crying For Help

A local news commentator here read a letter over the radio on 12/16/2012 from a mother of an elementary or middle school son with a SMD that was undiagnosed. Physicians and psychiatrists can not pin it down, but one hallmark of it is explosive violence with persistent threats of homicide and suicide.

This mother has not been able to receive any substantial medical help with her son. However, she is consistent with her spoken menu of consequences for unwanted behavior. Her son recently threatened for the umpteenth time to kill her and she drove him to the local psychiatric institution as she had promised him she would do on his next threat. She shouted out her driver's side window to staff outside to call 911.

As the child became enraged and violent, she hugged him hard until police could reach her car. It required three large male police officers and a paramedic to subdue the child at the entrance to the hospital. The child will be hospitalized until answers are found and I have faith that he will be prevented from harming himself, his mother, or his class at school.

This mom took action and made it stick. She felt she had to do so before her son grew large enough to subdue her, rather than visa versa. She still loves her son and her action is not punishment. Further, she published her experience in her local newspaper to warn other parents to help their children in similar circumstances before someone dies. Unfortunately, law enforcement in some towns cannot act in these situations at all until someone is injured severely or killed.

This mom in her newspaper piece stated that she is the symbolic mother of Adam Lanza (the 20-year-old Sandy Hook Shooter), Gabby Gifford's attacker, and all the others noted by Mother Jones. She feels that all parents are the parents of these attackers and should feel obligated to seek help for their own children and other children who show signs of SMD and especially violence.

Many Severe Mental Disorders exist and parents should not try to diagnose and handle them without medical intervention. These symptoms and syndromes are blatantly too overlapping with other SMD, personality disorders, neuroses, and medical conditions; and, too complex to leave to chance -- In fact, many of the symptoms could just as well be results from brain lesions, tumors, or developmental disorders as from a psychological condition. I have seen the tragedy that results from refusing to seek medical help in these cases.

I was able to help in a case of one of my younger students that might have ended badly. The destructive behaviors that were escalating were caused by a regimen of medications that was not working properly. All it took was a phone call from me to parents to tell them what I saw and they jumped into action by involving the physicians. Within two weeks, that child was stable and has remained so to this day.

HOTLINES

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Some school systems maintain School Violence Hotlines. Contact your schools to learn of there is such a hotline in your community. If not, ask the local school board how your town can start one.

Action and Answers

We may not be able to return to the 1950s to Mayberry NC with its simpler life. We don't have a Sheriff Andy Taylor that can figure out what to do in every situation. However, we do have one another in our communities. We also each have mySelf, a person that can take action in our own lives and offer help and compassion to others in theirs.

As societies grow in numbers of individuals, the instances of violence that we hear and see in the media become more frequent. In the early to mid-1990s, my research group found that the number one concern in our school systems was violence. Violence is a target program of the Health People projects of the US Federal government. At this time, we are working on Healthy People 2020.

The 2010s in America is a time in history in which violence needs to be chained. We need to develop ways of securing our schools and helping families with children that suffer SMD. Meanwhile, some simple precautions can be taken -- One of these is to not have guns in the house here someone with one of the SMDs is living, or at least to keep firearms well locked away. People with any of the mental illnesses have rights, but not to the extent that they surpass the rights of people without mental illnesses. Individuals with SMD need help, but also need to be prevented from shooting a roomful of children and six teachers.

The government cannot cure the problem alone and neither can the school systems of America. Parents also need help in these situations. The answer will take all of us.

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Comments 20 comments

liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

Thanks, Patty. Very helpful and informative.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

I had to add my voice to the outcry and sorrow, but still hold out for hope.


Johnkadu123 profile image

Johnkadu123 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Great hub. I am quite encouraged by the way in which the American public continues to surprise the pundits. There are still bigots but overall the country is still a shining beacon of what a state can be. I was pleasantly surprised by the way in which young people are beginning to take an interest in the future of their country in particular.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Johnkadu123 - Thank you for the encouraging words! There is hope, but we can all make it bigger.


Mr Archer profile image

Mr Archer 3 years ago from Missouri

Extremely well written piece. My heart has hurt more in the past few days than at any other time during my life. All of my prayers go out to these families.


Louisa Rogers profile image

Louisa Rogers 3 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

Patty, this was very well written and also informative, for one like myself who only vaguely understands mental illness and doesn't know all the different types and acronyms, like SMD. Voted up and useful.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Wonderful writing. We all need to help with baby steps they are manageable.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

Thank you Patty for this terrific article. I totally agree that the solution must start with help for individuals with SMD. Although I don't like guns, trying to eliminate them entirely is totally impossible and impractical. I was not aware of some of this information, and I appreciate that you shared it. This is an issue that must be approached logically and not emotionally.

All I can think about is that those families of the recent massacre will never feel the same way about Christmastime again. Their precious children are gone forever. And I wonder what in particular triggered it all in 1982?

I long for the 1950's again, and the gentler way of life. I wonder if we humans are doomed to become ever more violent and blood thirsty, or will we be able to find a way to a more peaceful existence?

Voted Up and Useful


Hmrjmr1 profile image

Hmrjmr1 3 years ago from Georgia, USA

Excellent work


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 3 years ago

No doubt there is o much we can do to stem the tide of these hideous tragedies. First and foremost, I believe we need to make our schools as safe as possible.Then we can turn to other remedies. Up, useful and awesome.


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

Charles Krauthammer had one of the most reasoned commentaries I've heard since last Friday. He said we had to address three things at once: the availability of assault weapons, cultural forces including violence in the movies and TV and, more importantly, video games; and SMDs. Without dealing with all three, the carnage will continue. That's my paraphrase of Krauthammer.


Jen Pearson profile image

Jen Pearson 3 years ago from Alabama

Did Adam Lanza have SMD? (Pardon my ignorance. I don't have a tv and so do not have as many details as those who do.

I agree that this is everyone's problem and requires more than stricter gun control. However, from what I've seen down here in AL, it's very possible that the parents, or parent, may not have the mental wherewithall to deal with their child's illness. Sometimes they're not even up to properly monitoring or enforcing the taking of medications. The parents have difficulty admitting this to themselves. They don't want their children taken out of their custody. And the state doesn't especially want the responsibility for these children either. Sometimes, also, adults don't take a child seriously when they express that a drug is having a bad effect on them.

If we begin taking responsibility for the mental health of our citizenry, as I believe we should, both in terms of modifying our overall society so it's more mental-health friendly and by providing free mental health monitoring, then it's a huge, huge commitment. And I doubt we're up to it as a country even after this horrific event.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

I agree with everyoine that says that we must increase the safety of our schools. Some Ohio schools have an armed policeman on duty and many have metal detectors at the entranceways. Keeping out those that mean harm is vital now more than ever.

A case of violence here about 15 years ago involved adoptive parents that were astounded by extremely violent behavior in their 5-year-old son and learned that the adoption agency knew about the problem, but did not inform them. Soon after the adoption, the boy became violent to the extent that he attempted and nearly succeeded in killing his three-year-old sister and he set the house on fire. Courts ruled that the parents were required to keep the adopted boy. I don't know the final coutcome of that case.

Jen's comment causes me to remember the several cases in my city of parents that felt what she describes - totally unable to deal with the behaviors, medication schedules, and lack of taking the meds. What happened here is that some parents were charged with a crime if they attempted to drop off mentally ill and extremely violent kids at the county juvenile authority --

I like what the letter-writing mom did in taking her child to the hospital in the midst of misbehavior and homicide threat, shouting for someone to call 911 and allowing the authorities to take control of her son's extreme behavior.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

Thanks, Patty. The pendulum swing of preferring to keep the maximum number of persons with SMD out in the community (rather than in a protected, protective custody) is not keeping everyone safe.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

You're right about that, Maren Morgan M-T. I recall in the 1980s, our governor here attempted to have all the large psychaitric hospitals closed, but that action did not work because of the increased violent crimes resulting from the first few closures and release of patients that needed more help.


Laurinzo Scott profile image

Laurinzo Scott 3 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

This is an incredible article, and I respect your thoughts on those with SMD getting repecussions from not taking meds or refusing treatments...


Laurinzo Scott profile image

Laurinzo Scott 3 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

... please forgive me Ms Inglish but I had to continue the comment as I was called away from the computer; but this is such a serious issue, and your hub addresses it well.

In some ways however I disagree... it is very hard to measure the culpability of the severely mentally disabled; yet in worker with residents in and out of mental health hospitals I have found that beyond the mental issues their were those who were just purely evil... and it is unfortunate that there are so many people presumably sane who are just as evil.

Very interesting, and thought provoking hub... voting up and re-reading!!!!!!!!!!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Thank you for your views, Laurinzo. I, too, feel the reality of evil, despite training in the hard and soft sciences as well as maths; and I think I always will feel that reality.

My sense of urgency is that those with SMDs that are unresponsive to treatment should be segregated out of larger society in order to prevent harm and death to themselves and others. Some think that segregation of this sort is cruel to the people that have these untreatable conditions, but it is crueler and more unfair to have mass shootings.


Curiad profile image

Curiad 3 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

An excellent article Patty, I have been saying the same basically. Yes people that own guns need to be responsible, but that alone is not the answer. We all as a society need to take the actions you speak of, and provide the care and treatment of people rather that treating them like criminals or ignoring them.

Thank you, Mark


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Yes Mark, ignoring them especailly will not work.

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