Americans are facing an inconvenient truth, but it has nothing to do with our planet and everything to do with mental health.
When I determined that I definitely had to write on this topic, I let my fingers do the walking over at Google, and started collecting research materials. A lot of it had to do with statistical analysis of mental health resources in the US, where graduates with relevant degrees actually end up in the work force, etc. And then I stopped – closed all the tabs.
Americans don’t need statistics to tell them that mental health care resources fall far below our actual demands. They don’t need to be told that even with Obamacare, coverage for mental health services is insufficient. No one needs to see statistical analysis of where graduates in clinical psychology end up working. We already know where the vast majority don’t work – in clinics where most Americans could actually afford to see them.
No one needs to see yet another column pointing out the deficiencies in our mental health care system.
What we do need is to do some serious introspection, as a nation.
Right now, there are people in hospital rooms in critical condition, facing a future of multiple surgeries, to undo the damage done by a man who if he had survived, would probably have ended up in a courtroom attempting to use mental instability as a defense for the fact that he decided to open fire on people at a baseball field.
As tempting as it might be for me to go off on a tirade about the fact that the divisive politicking that we have been feeding daily is literally driving people insane, I’m not.
No, right now, I just want you, the reader to humor me for a moment. I want you to ask yourself the following question:
If I saw a person acting or speaking violently, to the point where I questioned whether or not that person really would hurt someone, what would I do?
What we saw at that baseball field shows that there were quite a few people who saw the shooter act and speak in a violent manner, but they chose to do nothing.
That’s not acceptable.
Like many of you, I was raised to “mind my own business,” and “don’t get involved in other people’s problems.” I was also raised to think that having “mental problems” was an absolutely terrible thing – something the person should be ashamed of no matter what.
Obviously, that’s not working out so well for us, as a society. Staying out of other people’s problems is allowing those problems to spill out into the public square, in the form of sprays of bullets, bombs, and multiple stabbings.
We’re failing at this, not because we don’t enough laws prohibiting the “wrong” people from getting weapons, or anything else like that. This problem will not be solved by any number of bills, resolutions, regulations, or bureaucrats.
We are failing at being human.
We have built up walls of fear around ourselves to the point where we’re afraid to speak out when we see that someone else is in trouble.
We have allowed our political, religious, and general beliefs cloud our judgement to the point where we are becoming incapable of showing signs of humanity toward others, especially if those “others” happen to believe in something different.
We have become so self-centered and self-involved that we are failing at even noticing when someone honestly needs help.
The “what if” for the day is, “What if the people who knew the shooter and were interviewed by the media had actually bothered to tell someone about the violence they saw in that man before he ended up in Virginia?”
It’s true, the result may have been the same, because our system for dealing with mental health problems is terrible. But, maybe things would have been different.
As long as people aren’t trying to make sure that their fellow citizens are getting what they need when they are in trouble, the system isn’t going to improve greatly either.
Maybe it’s time for the people to cause a new set of statistics – “How many times have police departments and emergency dispatch centers been told that there is someone who is in need of mental health care?” “How many times have hospitals been called to get information on mental health care for people other than the caller’s immediate family?”
Maybe it’s time to start causing those numbers to go up enough for researchers and bureaucrats to pay attention to them.