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The New Found Interest in Mental Health Care

For the many people who have worked for decades (and thanks and power to every person doing that) to get even sort of adequate funding for mental health care, this moment (related, of course, to the Sandy Hook murders) must be a mixture of “opportunity to educate” and “where the hell where all you people before now?” Of course, there’s a good chance that in a few weeks, they’ll be asking, “where did most of you go?” Generally speaking, we’re a people of short attention spans.

For the Electeds who are using access to mental health care as a diversion from thoughtful conversation and action related to guns, no surprise. It’s what you do.

In truth, of course, it isn’t an either / or situation, mental health care or guns. But the framing does work for distraction purposes, and Electeds are very, very good at distracting, and at encouraging citizens on the Right and Left to spend most of our time and energy attacking each other.

It could be dangerous to them if we started talking with each other, dropping the very familiar bullet point arguments and the need to “win” one for our side, and moving to exchange ideas, working toward solutions.

Here’s hoping Obama’s appointing Biden to “spearhead White House efforts to mold new gun and mental health policies.” Providing specific proposals would signal a stronger intent to act.

A bit of context for the efforts, from Walter Brasch at OpEdNews: (emphasis added)

A Brief Review of 2012: The Gun Culture of America

Jan. 8, 2011, Tuscon, Ariz.: A man had gone to a political town meeting at a supermarket, with the intent to murder Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He killed six and wounded 14, including Giffords … .

April 2, 2012, Oakland, Calif.: A 43-year-old former nursing student entered a classroom at Oikos University, killed seven and wounded three. …

July 8, Dover, Del.: Three persons walked onto a soccer field, killed the tournament organizer, the father of six children, and a 16-year-old player … .

July 17, Tuscaloosa, Ala.: A gunman with a military-style assault rifle went to the house of a man who he believed knew someone else, shouted a racial slur, and shot that man, and then walked into a crowded bar and began shooting. Seventeen were wounded from gun fire, shrapnel, and shattered glass. …

July 20, Aurora, Colo: A man with full body armament entered the Century Movie Theater, killed 12 and injured 58. …

Aug. 5, Oak Creek, Wisc.: A white supremacist entered the Sikh temple and killed seven people. …

Aug. 13, College Station, Texas: A 35-year-old man … killed a constable and a passerby, and wounded four others, before police killed him …

Oct. 21, Brookfield, Wisc.: A man walked into a spa, killed his wife and two other women, and wounded four before killing himself six hours later. …

Dec. 14, Newtown, Conn.: A 20-year-old man kills his mother, breaks into a school, and murders 20 six-and seven-year-old children, and six adults defending them, and then commits suicide.

I know that list is familiar, and very similar to 2011 and 2010 and 2009 … . So are the difficulties in accessing mental health care, which difficulties are also similar to those in 2011, 2010, 2009 … . Often, another familiar “official” response is the creation of a panel, a committee, a working group — with fanfare and promises — from which, months later, a report and recommendations are received, cheers and jeers are made regarding the report, and that’s that. Until the next time a similar committee is appointed.

Maybe it will be different this time. If so, I’m guessing it will be because enough of us started talking with each other, not repeating the same old arguments, but focusing on the reality of thousands of deaths through the use of guns every year, and the reality of limited access to mental health care, with the goal of finding solutions, not winning an argument.

(Joe Biden photo via

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5 Responses to The New Found Interest in Mental Health Care

  1. TPAZ December 19, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    Joyce, thank you. I know that you are an optimist but we cannot have a honest conversation about fixing mental healthcare in 2012 unless we admit that it is a huge and valuable sector of big pharma and that once upon a time America had a mental health system until Ronald Reagan blew it up when he became president. Are we ready to call bullshit on the Ronny Raygun revisionism? His presidency stopped in its tracks and reversed real economic, social and moral progress in this country.

    • Joyce Arnold December 20, 2012 at 9:41 am #

      I have to work quite hard at optimism, but I have to hope.

      I think, as you write, that the conversation absolutely must include talking about the very powerful role of “big pharma.”

  2. TPAZ December 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    My God, you mix assault weapons, psychotropic mind altering medications being prescribed to children as young as seven, eight, or nine years old with the internet and hours upon hours of first-person shooter videos all wrapped in red, white, and blue 24/7 terrorist paranoia. Add several dashes of 12 year perpetual war mongering by both political parties running the government – killing is the answer – then ask yourself; what could possibly go wrong with members of this generation trying to define normal in their virtual world?

    To check my thesis look around the world and point to another country with a similar record to ours for domestic nonpolitical violence.

    • Cujo359 December 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

      I wrote this article a few years ago about someone who was allowed to hold onto his collection of weapons while he was in the early stages of anti-depression drug therapy, killed a Democratic Party official at the official’s used car lot. I was told that I was crazy to think that this was because of the medicine – it was clearly hate radio. It’s what I termed Molestus hoc, ergo propter hoc, after the Ft. Hood shooting. “It [bothers|annoys|hurts] me, therefore it’s the cause”, roughly translated, and it means that people won’t accept that things often happen for many reasons (and, of course, they’ll immediately jump to the conclusion that it is among the causes), and eliminating one of the causes may not prevent them.

  3. Cujo359 December 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    “Maybe it will be different this time.”

    I can tell you this – until we as a people want these things, and are willing to remove politicians from office who won’t deliver them, it won’t happen. If it were as easy as talking about it, it would have happened already.

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong