In Response to “Mental Health Control”
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2013 16:02
"These are people with mental health issues who are a threat to the public. For some reason, we don't quarantine these people." A quote from “Mental Health Control” in the February 15, 2013 issue of The Crusader.
My first reaction to this passage was complete and utter disgust. Mental health is a topic to be given the upmost care and sensitivity; much like health, those affected by mental and emotional disorders are not to be blamed for their afflictions, but because of the nature of the illness, precise and careful wording and actions must be employed so as to ensure no further damage is caused to the effected and his or her loved ones.
Firstly, to refer to those with mental health disorders as “these people” is to lump all people with mental illnesses into one category, and to create an intolerant and unhealthy ‘we versus they’ mentality. Those struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or anxiety are not to be equated with those who became violent in the shootings of Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut. Those who take proper care of themselves by keeping loved ones informed on care and condition, by keeping up with psychiatry and psychology appointments, but continuing medications as directed, by avoiding stressors and learning coping mechanisms, will not be a threat to society. Adam Lanza never sought care. James Holmes discontinued his care a considerable period before attacking the movie theater. Also, most of those who struggle with mental illness, though suffer from serious consequences because of their diseases, do not become violent against others. Suicide is a far more likely outcome, and is the concern that most mental health professionals must tackle.
Furthermore, to condemn those shooters that prompted the original piece as ‘insane’ is to cognitively distance oneself and one’s society from the problem. The reasoning behind these shootings, though not readily available, is most likely more deeply rooted in American culture than many would allow themselves to believe. Being a member of the Chicagoland area, I know that gun restrictions alone will not solve this crisis with which America is grappling. However, to condemn those with mental disorders, to use the thick, red paint brush of ‘insanity’ to blame these murders, to completely ignore the issue of gun control is foolhardy, juvenile, and selfish.
Secondly, to suggest “these people” should be “quarantine[d]” is dehumanizing and insensitive. In fact, to use that word is to even call to mind a 1984 or Brave New World mentality. Mental health, though an important choice, is simply a choice. The government cannot and will not force those with cancerous moles to remove the blemish. To seek a medical professional is a choice. To accept that medical professional’s treatment is another. And to continue that treatment is a third. After all, what did “these people” do to deserve this leper colony of a mental institution? Simply the ‘threat’ they pose to society as a whole? And then, who is to determine this ‘threat’ and to what degree does one have to be ‘threatening’ to be cast away from loved ones and freedom?
Yes, mental wellness services should be more readily available (under many conventional and generally good insurance plans, it is not covered). The answer is not to blacklist those who have suicidal tendencies or a slightly less firm grip on reality. The discourse of mental health needs to change in this country. To call someone crazy, to set a stigma on therapist visits, to condemn the careful decision of medication as unhealthy and delusional, to scoff at someone’s need for emotional and mental support is to only further the problem. Perhaps, if we as Americans, and even well educated Americans, stopped using such condemnatory language, more people would seek the emotional help they require.