The simplest solution is to blame guns for the Sandy Hook tragedy and ignore the complex mental health issue that is behind such horrific events. Putting the spotlight on gun control advances an agenda steeped in idealistic, feel-good solutions, so it has become the political football du jour. This easy-way-out, politically-based approach is, and always has been, a failure.
The problem of abuse and neglect at long-term mental institutions was solved by closing them down and “mainstreaming” most patients into society. The advent of psychotherapeutic drugs helped rationalize this easy solution and it resulted in institutional neglect becoming society’s neglect of the mentally ill.
Legitimate concern for the mainstreamed mentally ill was solved by granting “rights”, a feel-good solution still popular today. Many of these “rights” protect them from getting treatment that they are too ill to recognize they need. Legally, these “rights” make it very difficult to force treatment or to get them off the streets where they may harm themselves or others. Too often, neither society nor the serious mentally ill end up protected by these “rights”.
It now seems that Adam Lanza’s mother was struggling against these rights. Reports say she was at her wit’s end, aware of her son’s escalating and out-of-control mental illness, and in the process of petitioning the court to have Adam committed. Adam knew this and had ample time to plan his insane protest.
It has become very difficult to get help for a mentally ill person who refuses help and many mothers across the country find themselves helplessly frustrated trying to do so. Many mentally ill self-medicate with illegal drugs, ending up homeless addicts getting treatment for addiction rather than for their root problem of mental illness. The system gets overwhelmed, the mentally ill deteriorate, and a time-bomb starts ticking.
The answer to this is not easily discernible, but it certainly is not gun control. Although better control of guns may be a legitimate issue to pursue, that bandwagon travels the wrong path to finding a solution to the complex problem of treating the mentally ill. The political issues must be replaced with people issues.
David J. Hentosh