America Plagued by Mental Health Illness Ignorance

How many unfortunate deaths will it take before the U.S. government finally decides to acknowledge the connection between psychological illness and incessant violent rampages? It’s tragic when turning on the news only to find out another shooting or act of violence has occurred around the country; more recently when an “affluent,” underaged, drunk driver killed four people. The movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School’s shooting tragedy involved individuals who were evaluated and believed to have some form of a psychological disorder; yet, these discoveries only came about once a crime was committed. Wouldn’t it make sense to treat these people with the proper care they deserve before others are hurt by their actions?

Other instances, such as the Wisconsin Sikh Temple shooting and the Navy Yard shooting in Washington D.C., involved perpetrators who showed signs of abnormal behavior stemming from their duty in the U.S. Military. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is commonly diagnosed among war veterans and those that work in strenuous environments, so why weren’t these individuals evaluated for their previous crimes and behavior?

Having talked to a Vietnam veteran, I was shocked to find out that although this man had served his country, he was later neglected having suffered from PTSD. Individuals like this man need treatment facilities that would help them cope with such experiences. Otherwise it could potentially lead to violent outcomes such as in the Wisconsin and Washington D.C. shootings.

More recently, a teen in Texas escaped jail time after his defense team testified that he suffered from “affluenza,” which they defined as having a sense of isolation for wealthy young people. The sense of isolation is cause by a negligent upbringing in which his finances and abnormal behavior were never monitored by his parents. However, the term “affluenza” has never once appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. If in fact “affluenza” was a genuine psychological disorder, the symptoms that were described during the trial indicates that he should have been treated many years ago.

Prior to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, one of the last acts which President Carter signed was the Mental Health Systems Act. This act proposed to continue federal mental health centers and would include a provision for federal grants to allow projects to prevent mental illness and promote positive mental health. However, after President Reagan was elected, federal funding for this act was put to a stop. Research was interrupted, the number of staff working in clinics were cut back, and many of the services were eliminated.

Proposition 63, known as the Mental Health Services Act, passed in 2004 has been providing funding and other resources for the California Department of Mental Health. Using one percent of income tax from personal incomes, the law has managed to generate $254 million in 2004-2005 and $683 million in 2005-2006, and is continuing to increase each year.

The broken mental health system in the U.S. that consists of unreliable diagnoses and information seems to be one of the causes of the many tragic events that have occurred throughout the years. With mental health often being a component of such crimes, it’s important for treatment to become recognized and valued by officials in the legal system. With that said, I strongly believe that individuals should take a stand and demand the government to recognize the mental health epidemic before another tragedy strikes again.


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