Reflections On The President’s Mental Health Conference From A Grateful Non-attendee

President Barack Obama didn’t have a hare’s chance in hell of enacting legislation to ban assault rifles. He ran his second presidential election campaign on making a scapegoat out of people in the mental health system. Towards the start of his second administration there were three atrocious acts of mass violence perpetrated by lone individuals in this country. All of these atrocities were perpetuated by young male misfits on a failure track. Misfit, in politically correct campaign jingo,  translates “mentally ill”.

The president’s answer to massive acts of violence by maladaptive individuals was to throw a conference on mental health. What do you get out of such a mental health conference? All of these people claiming to be advocates for the “mentally ill” come out of the woodwork asking for more resources, essentially, more money. Theory goes, all these people who need therapy aren’t receiving it, and so we need more money so we can get more people into therapy. If we get enough people into therapy, we will also get a few of those guys with itchy trigger fingers.

Problem. We could end up getting a lot more people into therapy while missing many people who go onto commit massive acts of violence at the same time.  If you’ve read the news, on campus, “mental illness” rates are going up, presumably in response to student killings. Alright. The one gap that we haven’t been able to bridge in this construct is the gulf between mental health problems and violence. There isn’t a tangible link that touches everybody in mental health treatment, and yet everybody in mental health treatment is expected to pay for the gross misdeeds of a very few.

What if beefing up the mental health system doesn’t prevent a few lone and disappointed individuals from going out there and shooting up movie theaters, political rallies, and school houses? What then? Oh, I know. Time for another conference on the nation’s mental health. Seems we missed a few crazies. Okay, so long as crazed isn’t human somehow…Once crazed becomes human it ceases to be a behavior outside of the “norm” of everyday life. We don’t, after all, want a lot of people going around taking their frustrations out on the world with firearms, stress-reduction afternoons spent at the gun range aside.

I’m back to that point I keep making time and time again. “Mental illnesses” don’t kill people any more than guns kill people. People kill people. There is no “mental illness” demon that pulls the trigger in the absence of conscious thought. There is a body behind the weapon. A body at the mercy of a conscious entity. Murder is a crime. “Mental illness” is a confusion of terms used to describe what amount to wide range of problems people experience in their lives. Obviously, if violence is the culprit, somehow we’re investing our time and energies into an entirely wrong direction. Doing so is not dealing with the real issue, and that issue is the amount of violence that we are putting up with in this country.

Some gun fanatics have suggested that issuing more concealed weapon permits might be the answer to mass violence in America. We have even seen legislative initiatives in some states to allow concealed weapons in school rooms and barrooms. Thing is, soon as a concealed weapon carrier uses his or her weapon on a large number of innocent people, he or she becomes, in the eyes of the mass media, disturbed. Sure, “normal” concealed weapon holders might be able to put down a crazed gunman, but what if your concealed weapon holder snapped. I’ve heard these mental health advocates, so-called, say anyone and everyone is susceptible.

I think we need to address the real issue. That issue is violence in America, that issue is not mental health. The president’s attempt to bring ‘mental illness out of the shadows’ is going to send mental health back into the shadows. Mental health treatment is not mental health. It is a business, requiring a large number of people thought “ill”, to prosper. The danger is that by focusing on this business we will end up increasing both the numbers of people labeled “mentally ill” and the numbers of people committing massive  acts of violence. We have a violence obsessed culture, inspired by a violence obsessed entertainment industry, and as such, it is little wonder that we have much violence. Blaming violence on “mental illness” is missing the point. The problem is violence, the problem isn’t “illness”, and the solution isn’t going to come from medical science.

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