Mental Health

Gotta Minute? We Need To Talk

sandy hookThis feeling of inadequacy  has been bugging me since Friday morning.   I’ve felt inadequate after watching FOX and CNN and seeing the tears and witnessing heartache in tsunamic waves of emotion that just wouldn’t stop.   I could do nothing but sit there and empathize.

And then I got mad.

What happened in Newton, CT last week was a lot like 9/11 but in some ways, even more gut wrenching.   The age of the  victims, I suppose.

Not that the terrorist attacks almost 12 years ago didn’t include children.   They did.  Seven kids, all under the age of  17 died on that balmy September morning.  Six were on board the hijacked planes; one young man–supposedly a teenager, had been on one of the impacted floors of the World Trade Center.

Like most of my fellow global citizens, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to process all that happened twelve years  ago.   Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism; an attempt to make sense of the senseless, but that horrible day has now become this horrific amalgam of people and debris.  The destruction of lives,  the destruction of buildings, airplanes….our innocence.    There were almost 3, 000 lives lost that day and after a while, the horror of it all;  the unspeakable tragedy that unfolded on live TV and for New Yorkers and Washington residents, in their own backyards, forced us to view 9/11 differently.   At least, it forced me to think differently.    On every anniversary since then, I have refused to allow the day to take a human form.   I can’t see it as the mass murder for three thousand.     It’s just a horrible day that still makes me feel like hell.   It always will.

What happened at Sandy Hook,  was smaller in scale, but in many ways, even bigger than life.      Twenty children woke up Friday morning, to die.   They got dressed, had breakfast, said goodbye and trundled into their classrooms at the usual safe haven that is a school—a familiar place where they learn to add and subtract, to spell and write.  It’s a place where they learn the basic academic foundations of life.   But all that changed Friday.   That’s when a mentally man who at 20, was a mere child himself in so many ways, chose to take his delusional rage out on the softest of targets.  Six unarmed women.  One of which was his mother and 20 children.

It was almost as if he killed a child to represent every year of his tortured life.

It’ll be different of course for the people of Sandy Hook, but in the coming weeks, when time has placed enough distance between the rest of the world and what Adam Lanza did, we’ll start hearing  quite a few conversations–heated and otherwise.      Oh, there will be those who insist that gun control be enacted NOW and they’ll do so with histrionics and drama citing 27 reasons (the number of fatalities in Connecticut) for the total abolition of all guns, certainly combat caliber assault rifles.  And while I can understand this stance, I also see it as more knee jerk  reaction than anything else.

The old adage that we’ve heard a million times–hackneyed as it is–applies here:  guns don’t kill people, people do.

Lots of people will call that a pant load.    When it comes to murder with a gun, another platitude applies:  which came first,  the chicken or the egg?    A gun is the weapon, a person uses the weapon.   A gun is only as lethal as the person pulling the trigger and so on and so forth.    I’m not making light of the situation.  It’s that gun control has been a font of rhetoric for ages.

The ubiquitous ‘they’ demanded gun control after Columbine; after Gabby Giffords was shot in Arizona, after the mass slaughter at the McDonald’s in San Ysidrio, California, after the one at the Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen….after Virginia Tech.     They’ve shouted for gun control after every time any bloody scenario has played out in this country.     And people get up in arms about it–no pun intended and it maintains life–for a little while, and then eventually, like everything in this country, the zeal wanes.

Why does it fall by the wayside?   Why are there no teeth in the anti-gun bite?  Well, I’d venture a guess it has much  to do with the indefatigable and immensely powerful lobby that IS the National Rifle Association.   And then there’s the  Second Amendment of the United States Constitution which protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home

Of course, when you read that knowing all the illegalities involved in guns in this country, it seems a bit sophomoric.  Well, intended but in this day and age, not all that applicable.  Some people will do it right…most will.  They’ll buy firearms legally and will own a gun (or guns)  for a lifetime without a single incident.    Then, there are the criminals who have to have a gun,legal or otherwise, to do their licentious bidding.    So do lunatics.

Enter the gist of my blogpost.  I really  don’t think guns are the problem.     Mental illness is.   A crazed person hell-bent on killing is going to kill come hell or high water.    A knife, a hammer….anything can be used as a blunt object—a frozen round steak, my old Chatty Cathy doll.    They had hard PVC bodies back then.   Real rigid stuff.

An old school doll can be a murder weapon, but a gun is a much more efficient killer.

But it isn’t the only choice the contemporary mass murderer has at his disposal.    Case in point:  the hijackers killed using airplanes, tons of A-1 jet fuel, physics and box cutters.   No guns.     The attack was extremely efficient and admittedly, visually stunning.    And that’s stunning asn inducing paralysis–both emotional and physical.

In Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer, a timer and a rented truck.     Efficient, too.    One-hundred and sixty-eight people were killed when the Murrah Federal Building was blown up.   Of that number, 19 victims were children under the age of 6.   You might recall, there was a nursery just above the detonation point.

We’ll also hear lots of talk about mental health.   This is one conversation we need to listen to and join in.    We need to talk openly about mental illness; recognize the signs and learn what to do when it stares back at us…before it looks down on us through the cross hairs in a rifle scope.

We need to voice our concerns when someone starts to act differently.   We have to risk being wrong people.   One person’s bad day could be another person’s breaking point.   We have to speak up, risk being embarrassed if we’re wrong; risk embarrassing someone if we’re right.   We must risk angering someone.  And in this ridiculously litigious society we now live in, we must even risk a slander suit.

Mentally deranged people are at the helm of every heartbreaking scenario known to man.   I firmly believe this.   Now, psychiatrists may argue that point.  They’ll tell us that not all murderers are psychopaths.    And that not all psychopaths are murderers.  Call it what you must for your article in this month’s Psychology Today,  Doctor, but as I see it, EVERY  murderer is deranged by the mere fact that he/she took someone’s life.

We have to get a better handle on why so many young white males are cropping up mentally impaired and not only that, why they’re acting upon their delusions in such murderous ways.   Is it the pharmacological parenting that’s creating this rewiring of adolescent gray matter?   Is it external import?    Is this something that’s genetic?     As for the ADD/ADHD crisis, I have no doubt that there are very real cases of  kids with these maladies for which mind or mood altering meds are a godsend, but..

I also feel that these meds can be just what the doctor ordered for a tired overwrought, overworked single parent with a very rambunctious, attention demanding seven-year old.    Give ‘em a pill….put ‘em in front of a Kindle Fire and let ‘em Angry Bird their life away.     Mom’s tired.Fred At Work

Hey, I understand the plight of some parents.  These are hard times.   There are dead tired single moms and dads who are driving on very bald tires.   There are married couples too who because of the economy, both have to work.    The problem  in this case?   When Mr. Slate pulls the bird’s tail indicating Fred Flintstone can quit for the day and slide on out of the quarry courtesy of the sleek, sloping back of  a back of  sauropod, that only means the end of the 9 to 5 work day.     Being a parent, being married has no schedule.  It just goes on and on….as it should.

So yeah, sure I get it and I sympathize, but mind-numbing medications especially prescribed for a still growing child, aren’t a panacea for frenetic family life.

I’d be all over Obamacare if it included had a fair and balanced mental health section that was truly fair and balanced and not agenda driven, regardless of the politics.    I’d be all over so-called” gun control, but as an American rather fond of our Constitution, I can’t be.   Keeping automatic weapons IN the hands of sane, law abiding citizens yes.  Out of the hands of the criminals and lunatic fringe, oh hell yeah..

But that won’t happen.  The black market and other aspects of illegal arms dealing will always offer access.    I’m not even holding my breath for mental health care that makes sense.   It’s costly and really, only effective if there’s therapy and if  person on the meds, stays on the meds.   The big problem facing us today is the fact that so many patients go off their drugs .  They hate the way they feel, they hate the drudgery of the routine of taking them, day in and day out.    Perhaps the choice of taking a pill or not taking a pill is one of the few controls they feel they have.

But look at the tragedies than can and do ensue when that happens.    Being medicated for a mental illness has to become a way of life….a lifestyle, but can never be construed as a lifestyle choice.     Then civil rights come into play.    We can’t ‘make’ people do anything.    Well, maybe its time we should.

Kids or adults who make threats and even hint at being a danger to themselves are others should be incarcerated.    Psych wards, asylums–penal institutions, I’m not picky.     Lives are at stake.    I’m sorry that mental health issues have been stigmatized, but the stigmatization is there for a reason.   Yes, I know I can’t lump all mental health illnesses  under one Freudian umbrella, but sadly when there’s a significant snap or detachment from reality,  there’s almost always  a body count.   If you produce a bad seed, admit it….  As a parent, I beg you, please DO NOT let  pride or ignorance gets in the way of getting help for your family member.   You must be held responsible on all levels.  And don’t depend on the government to pick up the tab for this safeguard.  This is your responsibility    Curtail the danger by placing the ill  person in an institution.  Slam the door and sign something that allows for little wriggle room.

Is this harsh?    I’m sure some will see it as harsh, then again so are 20 tiny little corpses.

Is this fair?   Not really, but it’s still your responsibility.     So, you get better insurance; get a second job, get a third mortgage.    Yes,  it’ll be expensive but in the long run, cheaper than all those wrongful death lawsuits.

Lastly, we’ll hear about the lack of faith.   How we’ve PC’d God out of the equation.    Some might even ask, where was God that Friday morning?   And some might respond, “He wasn’t in that first grade classroom  in Sandy Hook Elementary– that’s for sure!”

Epicurus one scribed:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.

Is God able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.

Is God both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?

Is God neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

I asked this question many times after 9/11.    In the wake of Friday’s massacre, many are asking it now.    And that’s a normal query.  It’s normal to try to figure out the ancient conundrum:  God vs Evil.     I think that if you’re a theist, one who unquestionably believes in a Supreme Being, then might I assume you view God as the ultimate Divine Source,  but one that also has oh–let’s call it “a responsibility”  to serve man.   I say that in the vein of God answering our prayers in the affirmative; you know–getting us through bad break ups, acing that LSAT, shrinking that tumor, landing that job after two years of abject unemployment….making that cute Jeremy Michael Holmstead The Third text me later, because he promised he would during fourth period math and I’ll just die…just DIE if he doesn’t.

I didn’t go to divinity school.   I’m a lapsed Catholic.   I’m fairly ignorant in the ecclesiastical ways and  means.   Even so,  I find absolutely no logical basis for this assumption, whether  right or wrong.  The reality is, there are necessary evils in the world we have to confront and endure.   If you live long enough, you will encounter the, and when those are encountered,  faith for some is the driving force that keeps forward momentum.    It’s a strength they can call upon.    I’m not even talking about the spiritual kind of faith.  I’m talking about the general kind,  that this too shall pass; that tomorrow will be another day.   Faith, regardless of its genus, is intangible.  It just is.   It’s what keeps some people  waking up in the morning despite horrific life events.   Yes, faith is important but  let’s not forget  19 hijackers were also men devoted to their faith.    They died–and killed–for what they believed in.   Theirr version of Allah.

Then again, maybe they were destined to do what they did.

I don’t know–maybe I’m grasping at straws here, but I have to believe in the theory that good can come from suffering.   There was good that came out of 9/11.    September 11th created the TSA, an institution that’s  not without its problems, but frankly, they are the first line of defense against future hijackings.   Every plane that crashes teaches us about safety issues.  Invariably, air travel is safer as a result.   Earthquakes and tornadoes make us improve building codes.     Cars now have cushioning airbags that explode on impact;  thanks to medical research, a diagnosis of AIDS and cancer no longer mean death sentences.

Those who have died in all these situations, were martyrs of sorts, unwitting all of them, but martyrs nonetheless.     We have to honor them by making sure their lives and deaths weren’t in vain.  We have to do something.

In the hours after Friday’s shooting, all people could say when interviewed by the media is, “there are no words” to describe how they were feeling.   Of course there are no words.    Shock and awe are best expressed and dealt with in silence.    But we’re going on 72 hours since the shooting and soon, it’ll be a week and then a month and then a year.    Time makes it both easier and necessary to find our voices.  We have to find the words to talk about mental illness and how to keep any and all automatic weapons out of the hands of those sick individuals who pose a threat to society.   We have to have open and honest dialog, much of it will ask difficult and uncomfortable questions, but all necessary.   There has to be follow-up conversations and cooperation from BOTH sides of the Congressional aisle.    Bi-partisan give and take.    We have much to learn.    Much to accomplish.

Many lives to save.

Friday, December 14th will become a seminal date, much like 9/11.   And like 9/11,  there will be good that comes out of what happened in Newton, CT.

How do I know this?    I have faith that it will.