Here is what I know about today’s horrific events: A man went to a school where his mother worked, shot and killed her and many others, wounded many others, traumatized many others, and is now dead.
I don’t know if he was mentally ill. I don’t assume he was. But I do think that mental health is an integral part of the plan for preventing similar massacres. It’s not just a matter of affordable mental healthcare, though that is definitely important. It’s a matter of not demonizing the mentally ill. Whether or not this man was mentally ill, some mentally ill people do commit violent crimes. But not all, or even most. A mentally ill person, who has an illness that can have an effect on their tendencies toward violence, who is not diagnosed because he or she is so terrified of being thought crazy they refuse to consider getting help, is significantly more likely to commit a crime than one who has the same illness but is also treating it. Mentally ill people are not all evil; nor are they all martyrs. Mentally ill people are people. Like any group of people, they are a mix. So yes, I believe that affordable mental healthcare is an important component to preventing mass shootings. But it’s not the only one. We need to understand mental illness is just that-illness. A malady to be treated, just like the flu or chicken pox. Mental healthcare is not a separate thing–it is part of healthcare. We can address part of this with laws about healthcare, but we must also address it personally, individually, and with our children, so people don’t reject out of hand the help that could save them so much suffering.
I also think that regulating the creation and sale of guns is an important part of the plan for prevention. We regulate automobiles, pharmaceuticals, food and drink. When there is a reason to reform those regulations, for example bottles of pills that have been tampered with, we reform those regulations. We can’t prevent all violence, it is true, but we can do a better job of it than we are now. Let’s do a better job of it. Now.