The problems with mentally ill co-exist with civilization. Only in our “enlightened” times have the truly mentally ill been allowed to walk among us, unknown to anyone but a select few.
Go back to – you guessed it – the Reagan Administration. Reagan, that tight-fisted hater who closed all the mental hospitals because he wanted the money to go to Star Wars and the military. Remember that?
Well, you shouldn’t. Because it simply isn’t true.
The truth is, many mentally ill people were removed from hospitals and asylums and set out on their own. That happened because of several court cases, the most critical one being a Supreme Court case in 1975 called O’Connor v. Donaldson. The court ruled that someone may not be incarcerated in a mental institution against their will unless they are a danger to themselves or society. To do so would be a violation of their basic civil rights to liberty and as a result many people who had been thrown into these institutions were set free.
In fact the ball started rolling in the Kennedy administration, with the final bill he signed into law the Community Mental Health Act, which commissioned a study on how the mentally ill and insane were being treated and whether the current system was good or bad.
Ronald Reagan did sign the Lanterman–Petris–Short Act in California as governor, which took effect in 1972, effectively doing what the O’Connor v. Donaldson ruling did nationwide. The bill had bipartisan support and was widely lauded by the left as a civil rights masterpiece. The ACLU argued for the end of forced institutionalization of harmless insane people, not Ronald Reagan.
There were more homeless on the streets under Reagan, though, that much is true. Part of it was the supreme court’s decision – many of these people were no harm to themselves or others, but weren’t really capable of taking care of themselves adequately and couldn’t hold down jobs on their own. So they ended up on their own, on the streets. They’re still out there after 12 years of Democrat presidencies, by the way.
For if you consider the perpetrators of recent incidents of mass murder—the Newtown tragedy, the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the 2007 horror at Virginia Tech—the one common thread is their self-evident insanity. To be sure, not all people with mental illness are violent, and not all violent people are insane. But we seem to tolerate the presence of psychotics in our midst, and regard their occasional explosions as a cost of liberty.
I would not waste too much energy in seeking the “reason” for the Newtown shootings, or discerning their “meaning,” or contemplating the killer’s portrait as the “face of evil.” I am not sure what evil looks like, or even if it has an obvious appearance. But it is difficult to look at the faces of Naeem Davis, Adam Lanza, Jared Loughner, Seung Hui Cho, and others, and not swiftly conclude that they are deeply, obviously, and dangerously psychotic.
And yet, in the midst of our national hand wringing, one pertinent fact is persistently unmentioned. Since the passage of the Community Mental Health Act (1963) during the Kennedy administration, which mandated the closing of state mental institutions in favor of “community health centers” and outpatient care, and the massive and progressive “deinstitutionalization” of the mentally ill during the 1960s and ’70s, the residents of those old state hospitals have been transferred, almost totally, from the wards to the streets, and with predictable results.
Few “community health centers” were ever built, of course, and psychotics off their meds aren’t good outpatients. But the sudden emergence of mass populations of “homeless” people in cities during the 1970s and ’80s seems to have caught Americans off guard. It also afforded a political opportunity: The existence of homeless people—ordinary folks just a paycheck away from disaster—was conveniently blamed on the domestic policies of the Reagan (or any subsequent Republican) administration. No attention was paid, no attention was invited, to the mental health of those who lounge, sleep, urinate, defecate, scream, or beg for food on the nation’s sidewalks, stab the occasional passerby, or push bystanders onto subway tracks.
So, this brings us to the present situation: there is simply no mechanism in place to forcibly care for the severely mentally ill.
At Newtown High School, Adam Lanza was often having crises that only his mother could defuse.
“He would have an episode, and she’d have to return or come to the high school and deal with it,” said Richard Novia, the school district’s head of security until 2008, who got to know the family because both Lanza sons joined the school technology club he chartered.
Novia said Adam Lanza would sometimes withdraw completely “from whatever he was supposed to be doing,” whether it was sitting in class or reading a book.
The club gave the boy a place where he could be more at ease and indulge his interest in computers. His anxieties appeared to ease somewhat, but they never disappeared. When people approached him in the hallways, he would press himself against the wall or walk in a different direction, clutching tight to his black briefcase.
But friends and neighbors said Lanza never spoke about the difficulties of raising her son. Mostly she noted how smart he was and that she hoped, even with his problems, that he’d find a way to succeed.
Think that mass shooters are sane? That the apparent mental instability/illness of the shooters is a coincidence? Studies tend not to agree:
A lengthy study by Mother Jones magazine found that at least 38 of the 61 mass shooters in the past three decades “displayed signs of mental health problems prior to the killings.” New York Times columnist David Brooks and Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson have both suggested that the ACLU-inspired laws that make it so difficult to intervene and identify potentially dangerous people should be loosened. “Will we address mental-health and educational-privacy laws, which instill fear of legal liability for reporting potentially violent mentally ill people to law enforcement?” asks Professor Jacobson. “I doubt it.”
Think mass shooters are insane because of the violent video games they play? Other than common sense, that virtually none of the millions of single, young, sometimes socially awkward, gun-trained men in the country – many of whom have seen combat – have become mass shooters, academia also seems to think that this meme doesn’t hold water:
Ten-country comparison suggests there’s little or no link between video games and gun murders
So, what have we learned? That video game consumption, based on international data, does not seem to correlate at all with an increase in gun violence. That countries where video games are popular also tend to be some of the world’s safest (probably because these countries are stable and developed, not because they have video games). And we also have learned, once again, that America’s rate of firearm-related homicides is extremely high for the developed world.
Want solutions, not whining? Solutions are out there, but few want to listen:
2. Write exceptions into the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) so parents of mentally ill children can get access to medical records and receive information from their children’s doctors on what is wrong and what the children need.
3. End the Institutes for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion in Medicaid law.
4. Create a federal definition of serious mental illness, and require that the vast majority of mental-health funding go to it.
5. Eliminate the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA).
If you want to see how serious any given person is about minimizing more mass shootings, this is a litmus test. These are Federal laws and programs, and we would wager the President could further [ab]use his Executive Privilege to make these things happen even if Congress failed to act.
But this is a no-hope agenda. Thus far, no one in the federal government or the Old School Media will even touch this topic.
And the severely mentally ill will continue to walk among us.